Are We Promoting Healthy Financial Habits? Research from Knology Answers Key Questions on U.S. Financial Education Spending

Sparks Important Conversations with Policy Makers, Academic Researchers, and Nonprofit Organizations about Financial Education in the US

NEW YORK, Feb. 08, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- With the recent economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the value of financial literacy has become increasingly apparent. In recent times, some for-profit companies and banks have launched financial wellness initiatives, tools and programs to help employees and consumers manage their money and reduce financial fragility. Historically, investments in formal financial education and out-of-school financial literacy programming have come from state governments and nonprofit organizations, and the amounts of these investments have varied from state to state. To date, very few studies have assessed the impact of these investments on individuals’ decision making and financial well-being.

In 2019, researchers from Knology, a social science research organization, embarked on a project to build a database of information on individuals’ exposure to financial education content as well as non-profits expenses in the sector. The project, called A New History of Investment in Financial Education across the United States, was funded by the National Endowment for Financial Education® (NEFE). Political economist and Knology Fellow Joseph de la Torre Dwyer, Ph.D., was the principal investigator for the project.

Details from the study are described in a white paper. The research is also detailed in a paper currently in review by the Journal of Consumer Policy. Among other key findings, the research showed modest connections in several outcome areas: Specifically, increased spending on financial education per student in public schools is linked to a small, positive change in people’s assessments of their own financial health. The research also found a link between increased financial education mandates in public schools and reduced financial fragility. In other words, people who received formal financial education were more likely to have resources to cover unexpected expenses. The research also highlighted that additional spending on financial education from non-profits is associated with specific financial fragility outcomes.

For this study, Dwyer looked at data on individual outcomes in the national Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking (SHED) conducted by the Federal Reserve each year since 2013. He also looked at state-level data from the early 1990s through 2020 on financial education requirements and investments in financial education in public schools, as well as information on contributions for nonprofit spending and activities in the financial education domain. Dwyer’s research also identified some gaps and challenges with the data. This included missing information on some states’ financial education legislation and regulations, and some ambiguity among states’ academic standards. Furthermore, there was also state-by-state variability in the kinds of standards and requirements provided.

This project generated a suite of resources that cover financial education investments in detail. The first resource is a research database that covers financial education information across states dating back to the early 1990s. Knology also created a Mapping tool that offers maps showing changes in financial education investments and financial health outcomes from 2001 to 2019. The database and mapping tool along with other products from the research are freely available.

“This research is intended to catalyze conversations about financial education spending in ways that encourage the public to adopt healthier financial behaviors and build savings,” John Fraser, Knology’s CEO, said in a statement. “Policy makers, nonprofit organizations, and researchers interested in studying financial education can use these resources to engage in studies and assessments of financial education that result in improved policies and greater expanded investment in the area.”

About NEFE
The National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) is the independent, centralizing voice providing leadership, research and collaboration to advance financial well-being. As one of the first organizations to embark on the mission of wholly dedicating its efforts on improving the effectiveness of financial education, NEFE continues its legacy of strengthening action-oriented research agendas, mobilizing intermediaries, and creating better solutions for researchers, educators, practitioners and policymakers. For more information, visit

About Knology
Knology is a social science research organization that works with nonprofits, businesses, and governments to untangle complex social issues. We consult with organizations on applications of research, program design, and strategy. We believe a partnership approach is the key to translating research into solutions. Six topic areas shape all Knology's work - Biosphere, Culture, Wellness, Media, Behaviors, and Systems. These research areas link our work to critical phenomena that affect all people and the structures that determine how they function. Within each research area, Knology works on initiatives that cut across individual projects and partnerships. This interconnected approach gives us the ability to study issues with nuance and rigor, as well as support our partners in implementing evidence-based interventions.

Learn more about how Knology researchers built the database here and here.

For more information or to set up an interview, please contact