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Visual tools and narratives: new ways to improve financial literacy*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 December 2015

The George Washington University School of Business (e-mail:
The University of Southern California (e-mail:,
The University of Southern California (e-mail:,
Dartmouth College (e-mail:
RAND Corporation (e-mail:
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (e-mail:


We developed and experimentally evaluated four novel educational programs delivered online: an informational brochure, a visual interactive tool, a written narrative, and a video narrative. The programs were designed to inform people about risk diversification, an essential concept for financial decision-making. The effectiveness of these programs was evaluated using the American Life Panel. Participants were exposed to one of the programs, and then asked to answer questions measuring financial literacy – in particular, risk literacy – and self-efficacy. All of the programs were found to be effective at increasing self-efficacy, and several improved financial literacy, providing new evidence for the value of programs designed to improve financial decision-making.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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The research reported herein was performed pursuant to a grant from the US Social Security Administration (SSA) funded as part of the Financial Literacy Research Consortium. The authors thank participants at the Financial Literacy Center (FLC) workshops in Cambridge, MA, and Washington, DC, for comments, Tania Gutsche for excellent assistance on navigating the American Life Panel, and Anshuman Didwania and Amanda Chuan for research assistance. The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the authors and do not represent the opinions or policy of SSA, any agency of the Federal Government, or any other institution with which the authors are affiliated.


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