Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

The Effects of Financial Education on the Financial Knowledge of High School Students

Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

The Effects of Financial Education on the Financial Knowledge of High School Students

Article excerpt

This study investigated the effects of a financial education program on high school students' knowledge of personal finance. A comparison of pretest and posttest scores achieved on a reliable and valid thirty-item instrument suggested that the Financing Your Future curriculum increased financial knowledge across many concepts. The scores increased regardless of the course in which the curriculum was used and across student characteristics. The assessment contributes to the growing literature showing that a well-specified and properly implemented program in financial education can positively and significantly influence the financial knowledge of high school students.


Interest in personal finance education in US schools has increased significantly since the 1990s. From 1998 to 2009, the following changes occurred: states with content standards for personal finance education in the schools rose from twenty-one to forty-four, states requiring implementation of those standards increased from fourteen to thirty-four and states requiting that a personal finance course or economics course with personal finance content be taken before graduation from high school grew from one to thirteen (CEE 2009). The Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, formed in 1995, published the first national content standards for personal financial education in 1998 (Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy 2007). The organization also sponsored national testing of high school students and has used the results to call national attention to deficiencies in youth financial understanding (e.g., Mandell 1998). In addition, changes in economic conditions since the 1990s have led to more studies of adults' problems with personal finance (Braunstein and Welch 2002). These developments together with reports of poor student test scores have reinforced the perceived need for more financial education among youth (Bernanke 2006).

Published evidence of the effectiveness of precollege financial education has been somewhat mixed. Some studies have questioned the value of personal financial education in secondary schools. For example, Mandell (2008), using the Jump$tart data that he collected from 2000 to 2006, found no evidence that students taking a money management or personal finance course knew more about the subject than students who had not taken such a course. Other studies have reported positive effects on student knowledge or understanding of personal finance topics and concepts based on education with specific financial curriculum (e.g., Danes, Huddleston-Casas, and Boyce 1999: Harter and Harter 2009; Varcoe et al. 2005). If states, school districts, or teachers want to allocate more instructional time and resources to financial education in high schools, more research is needed on its potential value to justify those allocations. This study offers additional evidence that well-defined and properly implemented financial education programs in high school can increase students' financial knowledge.

The study also seeks to address concerns, such as content specification, instruction, measurement, research design and analysis, about research protocols in financial education program evaluation (Fox, Bartholomae, and Lee 2005; Lyons et al. 2006). The content for the DVD-based curriculum used in this study, Financing Your Future (FYF) (CEE 2006), is clearly described and specified so that different teachers provide the same instruction to each student. After training, teachers are familiar with the content and know how to teach it. The financial knowledge test employed to assess student achievement was developed to be a valid measure of knowledge of the content taught with the instructional materials, and the scores were found to be reliable.


In response to the perceived need to improve financial literacy, a wide range of private businesses, nonprofit organizations and government agencies have developed financial education materials and programs (see Fox, Bartholomae, and Lee 2005). …

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