The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Advancing Financial Capability in a Global Context

Thursday, January 16, 2014: 1:30 PM-3:15 PM
HBG Convention Center, Room 103A Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
Cluster: Poverty and Social Policy
Symposium Organizer:
Julie Birkenmaier, PhD, Saint Louis University
Interest in financial capability has grown in recent years in response to volatile global economic conditions and growing wealth inequality.  Financial capability is increasingly used as a framework to examine financial behaviors and realities, including for low-income populations.  Academic, government-sponsored, and industry-sponsored practice and policy publications and research, both nationally and internationally, use financial capability as a structure around which to organize research on financial literacy, access and functioning (Atkinson, McKay, Kempson, & Collard, 2006; Applied Research Consulting, 2009; FINRA, 2009; Harris Interactive, Inc., 2013). Practice efforts are underway to improve financial capability by government, nonprofit, and for-profit sectors, as well as international bodies (The World Bank Institute, 2012).

Financial capability, the combination of financial knowledge and skills and access to appropriate financial products and services, is vitally important for individuals and families to act in their best financial interest through optimal financial functioning.   Although financial knowledge and skills are a key element, low levels of financial literacy worldwide paired with an increasingly complex set of financial choices significantly impair people’s ability to make sound financial decisions. Financial access, a second key element, is the focus of practice efforts worldwide to promote financial capability, especially for the working poor.  The lack of quality, affordable saving and investment mechanisms hampers efforts to promote financial capability (Sherraden, 2013); non-profits, NGOs and for-profit companies in the US and worldwide are engaged in developing and promoting financial access.   Research is underway to learn more about the financial capability needs of diverse populations domestically and globally to better target efforts.

This symposium will provide a theoretical foundation for and empirical evidence about financial capability in a global context and about specific populations.  Specifically, the presentations will focus on key questions to inform practice and research approaches to financial capability in a global context. The first paper from Birkenmaier and Huang proposes a theory-based framework that brings together previous research on financial capability to provide a common basis for research and practice worldwide. The proposed framework is particularly important for future studies to provide consistency for comparison studies, and contribute to the goals of policy makers and practitioners for which reliable research outcomes are needed. The second paper from Despard and Chowa provides empirical evidence about financial capability efforts with youth in Ghana, Africa.  Their findings about the importance of earned income and parental discussion with youth in Ghana provide support for the exploration of these elements in financial capability efforts with youth worldwide. The third paper from Huang, Nam, and Lee provides guidance on financial capability efforts with older adult Asian immigrant populations.  The researchers found that access and functioning are negatively associated with economic hardship. These findings underscore the need for financial capability efforts with older adult Asian immigrant populations to particularly focus on financial access and financial functioning.   Taken together, these papers suggest ways that global financial capability research and practice efforts can progress.

* noted as presenting author
A New Framework for Financial Capability
Julie Birkenmaier, PhD, Saint Louis University; Jin Huang, PhD, Saint Louis University
Earned Income As a Predictor of Youth Saving in Ghana
Mathieu R. Despard, MSW, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Gina, A. Chowa, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Financial Capability and Economic Hardship Among Low-Income Older Asian Immigrants
Jin Huang, PhD, Saint Louis University; Yunju Nam, PhD, State University of New York at Buffalo; Eun Jeong, PhD, National Asian Pacific Center on Aging
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