To address a perceived gap in personal financial knowledge, lawmakers in several states have recently passed laws requiring high school students to receive "financial literacy education" to graduate. However, our research suggests programs created in response to these laws have had little to no impact on students' (1) personal financial knowledge, (2) ability to make sound financial decisions, or (3) appreciation for the value and virtues of free enterprise. Our recent work suggests that individuals who start and operate a business have increased financial knowledge, ability to make better financial decisions, and appreciation for the value of free enterprise. Perhaps most important, our work suggests engaging in entrepreneurial activity seems to cause these results instead of being an indicator of who antecedently possesses the relevant knowledge or skills.
This project will develop, deliver, and evaluate new educational curricula and tools to teach financial literacy and other skills through entrepreneurial projects and experiential work. The project team will study whether starting and operating a business leads to increased financial knowledge and other behavioral changes that better position individuals for long-term financial and social success. To test this hypothesis, the team will compare a sample of 1400 high school seniors: 700 will be supported to start their own business and 700 will take a more traditional, classroom-based financial education course, followed by a series of surveys measuring knowledge, skills, and attitudes over multiple years. Based on the team’s findings and overall impact of the programs, the team will develop new iterations of the courses, pedagogical materials, and produce updated curricula materials for a wider audience of educators.