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Youth Financial Education: What We Know and Key Questions for Future Research

We recently released Review of youth financial education: Effects and evidenceThis report seeks to identify the factors that can advance youth financial education research in order to improve practices and support practitioners in the field.

Building personal financial capability early in life gives people a foundation for later-life financial well-being. Schools are an important channel to provide education to improve financial capability. Yet, financial educators and policymakers face many decisions about whether and how to implement financial education. Strong research can ground these decisions and inform stakeholders of the rigorous evidence that exists on financial education in schools. This report responds to the question: “What evidence has been established that can guide efforts to provide young people with effective financial education?”

Here are three main takeaways:

  • Well-implemented state financial education mandates led to a clear improvement in financial behaviors.
  • Many U.S. financial education programs improve financial knowledge for students, though success varies based on the population served, amount of instruction time, and topics covered.
  • Other countries have used more widespread randomized controlled trials to study the effects of financial education programs as they embed and expand them broadly. Those studies also provide useful information. 

The report highlights that outcome-based research can help inform policy changes in financial education. Studies based on cause and effect can be useful because they seek to answer a specific question by isolating the effect of a single factor, allowing policymakers and practitioners to pinpoint what makes a financial education program effective. In turn, a financial education program that is rooted in evidence can become a future best practice for other practitioners looking to replicate or scale their programs.

While the report sets the stage for understanding the types of rigorous research that has been done in the school setting, our Youth Financial Education Research Priorities lays out key unanswered research questions in youth financial education identified by a range of stakeholders.

We encourage investigation into these questions to point the way towards evidence-based solutions that are effective, scalable, and invite implementation. To this end, the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP), on behalf of the CFPB, is issuing a call for research proposals on youth financial education. View the call for proposals .

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