|Consumer Finance Research Center|
"Methodological Issues on Measuring Financial Literacy"
(Research project coordinator: Prof. Gianni Nicolini)
At the same time financial authorities and regulators can benefit a lot from knowing how much consumers of financial products and services are knowledgable. For instance, a lack of knowledge and understanding about the functioning of basic financial products and a misinterpretation about the possible consequences of the use of such products justify the need of a consumer protection regulatory framework based on the assumption that individuals are the "weak part" of a trade that need to be strictly monitored and sometimes limited in their choices. If individuals were enough financially literate to assess their financial needs and to choose the right solution on the market, a more flexible regulation could be adopted.
The relevance about the consumer financial literacy requires to carefully measure it by taking into account different dimensions as (1) the selection of the areas of knowledge to take into account in that process and (2) the level of detail in these areas that depend by (3) the need of knowledge related with the financial need of individuals.
The attitude to measure financial literacy by a small number of items and referring to very basic financial principles suggested to improve the level of knowldege in this research fields developing a robust methodology and testing it by an empirical analysis of financial consumers in different countries.
Step 1 - Review of the literature and Questionnaire
The research project is based on a preliminary review of the literature with the aim to assess how previous studies measured financial literacy. The awareness of the methodology adopted and the items used to measure financial literacy were used to develop a comprehensive questionnaire made by three sections. The section 1 hosted questions on the socio-demgraphic profile of the respondents (useful to analyse data taking into account differences related with age, gender, income and other relevant variables). Section 2 is made by 50 questions on financial knowledge. Ten different areas of knowledge were tested by a set of 5 questions each. The five questions differed by the level of difficulty in order to test different level of knowledge. Section 3 regards the use of financial products and other financial behaviors of the respondents.
This first phase of the project was developed by the Italian branch of the network made by some researchers of the University of Rome "Tor Vergata" (Rome, Italy), that plays a leading role in the management of the whole project by connecting with the other national branches.
Step 2 - National surveys
The second step of the project sees the questionnaire be administrated to a sample of individuals on a national base. The use of an web based platform to administrate the survey by an on line questionnaire guantees a common standard in the administration of the survey (filling of the questionnaire, data collection, etc.). Thank to the use of the same questionnaire, the merge of data from national surveys allow the creation of an international database to be used for comparison between diffent countries.
The administration of national surveys already involved different countries (Italy, Sweden, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, United Kingdom, Portugal, Lebanon, France), while other connections are under consideration.
Step 3 - Analysis of data
Data from the surveys will allow to test different measures of financial literacy and compare their effectiveness with the ones adopted in previous studies in order to check the robustness of all the measures and identify the more reliables. The use of these measures can help to unfold the role of financial literacy in explaining specific financial behaviors (e.g. use of credit cards, saving for retiremnts, asset allocation and investment decisions, etc.).
Step 4 - Publication of results
Results from the analysis of either national and international data will be spread in different manners. The will to increase the hedge of knowledge on consumer finance is pursued by the writing of academic papers presented in international conferneces and submitted to high quality academic journals. With the aim to support policy makers and NGOs in their work and trying to reach the general audience of financial consumers, summary reports with descriptive statistics and ready-to-use recommendations will be provided too.
Links to the webpages of the national surveys
Outputs and Presentations
(Last update: November 2023)