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Women + Financial Literacy = Bad News

Annamaria Lusardi has been researching financial literacy for years. She has co-authored a new working paper (abstract; PDF) with Tabea Bucher-Koenen, Rob Alessie, and Maarten van Rooij called “How Financially Literate Are Women?” The answer: not very. This has obvious implications not only for something like retirement savings but also the gender pay gap (which is nowhere near as large as you think).

We document strikingly similar gender differences in financial literacy across countries.  When asked to answer questions that measure knowledge of basic financial concepts, women are less likely than men to answer correctly and more likely to indicate that they do not know the answer.  In addition, women give themselves lower scores on financial literacy self-assessments than men.  Both young and old women show low levels of financial literacy.  Moreover, women for whom financial knowledge is likely to be very important–for example widows or single women–know little about concepts relevant for day-to-day financial decisions.  Even women in favorable economic conditions are less financially knowledgeable than men.  This is important because financial literacy has been linked to economic behavior, including retirement planning and wealth accumulation. Women live longer than men and are likely to spend time in widowhood. As a result, improving women’s financial literacy is key to helping them prepare for retirement and promoting their financial security.