Thursday, January 11, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Marquis BR Salon 14 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Research on Social Work Education
Margaret Sherraden, PhD, Washington University in Saint Louis
The Financial Capability and Asset Building for All Grand Challenge calls on social work to improve financial and economic well-being, especially in the most vulnerable of U.S. households (Sherraden, et al., 2015). In a context of rising economic inequality, growing financialization, and financial precariousness in households in the bottom half, economic justice has taken center stage (Chetty, et al., 2014; Kochhar & Fry, 2014; Saez & Zucman 2014). This grand challenge offers social work an opportunity to re-affirm its historical commitment to the financial well-being of American families (Stuart, 2016). Achieving this grand challenge, however, will require greater emphasis in social work education on theory, evidence, and practical skills for improving household financial capability. This symposium reports on research that informs efforts to educate social workers for financial capability practice. By financial capability, we mean the financial knowledge, skills, and access to financial policies and services that are the foundation of financial well-being (Sherraden, 2013). Overall, low-income and low-wealth households lack the financial knowledge and skills necessary for household management and to navigate increasingly complex financial services (Lusardi & Mitchell, 2014). A quarter of low-income households lack access to a basic financial account, and often turn to expensive and sometimes risky alternative products to manage their finances (FDIC, 2016). At the same time, low-income households are largely excluded from beneficial social policies that build wealth (Howard, 1997; Steuerle, 2015). Although research and practice in financial capability have been underway for more than 20 years, social work education (SWE) has lagged behind (Bent-Goodley, et al., 2016; Frey, et al., 2016; Birkenmaier, et al., 2016). Few social work degree programs prepare students for financial capability practice—despite accreditation guidelines that include “economic justice” as a competency (CSWE, 2015; Gillen & Loeffler, 2012). Lack of explicit attention to financial capability in the curriculum can be remedied, but requires a systematic plan with focused attention (Savage & Graves, 2015). This symposium presents three studies that provide empirical evidence that informs efforts to prepare social workers for financial capability practice. The first paper, Financial and Economic Content in Social Work Education, reports on a large-scale survey of social work faculty in the United States on financial and education (F&E) content in the curriculum. It finds that although F&E coverage in the curriculum is low, faculty believe more would be useful. Key challenges include faculty expertise and interest, and accreditation barriers. The second paper, Student Perceptions of Financial Capability Interventions: How Important?, demonstrates that students' preferred fields of practice are associated with the importance they ascribe to including financial capability as a focus of social work intervention. Findings suggest that students are influenced by the importance placed on financial capability in their courses. The third paper, Administrators and Staff Perceptions of Financial Education in the ASSET Pilot Project for Head Start Families, is a qualitative study of staff perceptions of financial capability training. Staff underscore the importance of the training, and demonstrate awareness of the complexity and depth of financial hardship in Head Start families.
* noted as presenting author
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