A Thematic Literature Review on Financial Capability and the Effectiveness of Financial Education in America After the 2008 Financial Crisis

I completed this literature review on 2018-04-23 for IDS 7500: Seminar in Educational Research (self-directed study) at University of Central Florida. I will need to expound upon it in my dissertation, which will be focused on financial education.

A Thematic Literature Review on Financial Capability and the Effectiveness of Financial Education in America After the 2008 Financial Crisis
Richard Thripp
University of Central Florida

The purpose of this literature review is to investigate Americans’ financial knowledge and capability since the 2008 financial crisis (also known as the Great Recession), by synthesizing empirical research and position papers into a thematic narrative, with a focus on the refereed publications of leading researchers in the financial education space, such as Lusardi, Mandell, Mitchell, Mottola, and Willis. Articles are included based on authorship and their relevance toward this objective, with additional articles gleaned from leading researchers’ citations. Because of the breadth of the relevant literature, the focus herein is on explaining and adequately substantiating phenomena, rather than systematic coverage.

Definitions

Firstly, we should discuss the meanings of financial knowledge, financial literacy, and financial capability. These terms are inconsistently defined in the literature, but, generally, they are in order of scope. Financial knowledge relates to content knowledge and is often used as a proxy for financial capability (e.g., Lusardi, Mitchell, & Curto, 2010). Financial literacy additionally includes the ability to articulate one’s knowledge and apply it to real-life decisions (Vitt et al., 2000), while financial capability more prominently emphasizes improvement of one’s actual financial behaviors. A key distinction is that having financial knowledge does not actually mean one’s financial decisions will improve, and being taught about financial concepts does not mean that information will necessarily be retained. In the literature, financial knowledge and financial literacy are conflated or treated synonymously, while financial capability is often treated synonymous to financial literacy (Remund, 2010), but consistently refers to a construct more holistic than financial knowledge.

Background

Before the Crisis

Based on fifteen years of Survey of Consumer Finances data, Hanna, Yuh, and Chatterjee (2012) found that consumer debt increased, with 27% of households having more than 40% of their income going toward debt payments in 2007 as compared with 18% in 1992. Although the time leading up to the Great Recession was prosperous, it was also marked by financial institutions’ heavy over-extension of credit which resulted in unsafe debt proportions among American households, and particularly among more highly educated households. These debts, combined with a stock market plunge and widespread job loss, compounded the negative effects for many American households, which persist even a decade later. The crisis also brought about a renewed focus on financial education.

Financial Education Movement

A movement in support of financial education emerged in response to the Great Recession. The Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, a Washington, D.C. think-tank funded by the U.S. government and corporations like Charles Schwab and Bank of America, gained increasing clout. The organization’s National Standards in K–12 Personal Finance Education, now in its 4th edition (2015), increasingly became adopted by states and school districts throughout the US. While the movement gained momentum, several commentators complained about financial education on a theoretical basis—most notably, Willis (2008, 2009) who likens the movement to teaching citizens to represent themselves pro se in court or to perform their own medical procedures. More recently, Pinto (2013) argued that the movement is misguided in both its suggested implications and underlying assumptions. Later, we will see that unfortunately, there is also empirical support for this position.

Perceived Financial Capability

The National Financial Capability Study (NFCS) is a nationwide triennial survey of over 25,000 Americans that measures their financial position, attitudes, and content knowledge (for more information, see Mottola & Kieffer, 2017). It includes several questions asking respondents to rate their mathematical and financial abilities on seven-point Likert scales—we might refer to these questions as a proxy for self-perceived financial capability. An analysis of responses to these items in the 2009 NFCS survey shows a correlation between perceptions and actual financial knowledge (de Bassa Scheresberg, 2013), but also shows that Americans grossly overestimate their financial prowess. Such overconfidence can have detrimental consequences.

Measures and Proxies of Actual Financial Capability

Here, we will look at recent research on Americans’ financial capability, or proxies thereof (i.e., numeracy, financial knowledge, and financial behavior).

Numeracy

Numeracy, broadly, is the ability to understand and manipulate numbers, including basic mental arithmetic. These skills are closely associated with financial capability, yet sadly are consistently lacking among Americans, especially among those who are already financially at-risk such as senior citizens, women, and those with less educational attainment (Lusardi, 2012). A striking investigation is Lusardi and Mitchell’s (2007) analysis of 2004 survey data of Americans aged 51–56, which focused on three basic questions assessing numeracy. One asked how a $2 million lottery prize would be divided among five people, which was answered correctly ($400,000) by only 56% of respondents. More shockingly, a basic question on compound interest on a savings account over two years was correctly answered by only 18% of respondents, with most incorrect responses failing to consider the compounding effect. This shows that even older, wealthier Americans, close to retirement, have issues with basic mathematics, let alone complex financial decisions. Overall, quantitative literacy, an umbrella construct encompassing numeracy, has been shown to be significantly related to financial behaviors (Nye & Hillyard, 2013).

Financial Knowledge

Financial knowledge is often assessed by several questions first proffered by Lusardi and Mitchell (2011), which are actually quite simple, yet frequently answered incorrectly. The 2015 NFCS survey included these six content-knowledge questions:

  1. Suppose you had $100 in a savings account and the interest rate was 2% per year. After 5 years, how much do you think you would have in the account if you left the money to grow?
  2. Imagine that the interest rate on your savings account was 1% per year and inflation was 2% per year. After 1 year, how much would you be able to buy with the money in this account?
  3. If interest rates rise, what will typically happen to bond prices?
  4. Suppose you owe $1,000 on a loan and the interest rate you are charged is 20% per year compounded annually. If you didn’t pay anything off, at this interest rate, how many years would it take for the amount you owe to double?
  5. A 15-year mortgage typically requires higher monthly payments than a 30-year mortgage, but the total interest paid over the life of the loan will be less.
  6. Buying a single company’s stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund.

Although the answer choices are all multiple choice or true/false, in the 2015 NFCS survey, only 28% answered Question 3 correctly, 33% answered Question 4 correctly, and 46% answered Question 6 correctly (Thripp, 2017). It appears that respondents cannot mentally compute compound interest, even when correct choices are as simple as “less than five years” with respect to Question 4, requiring no computation. For Millennials, financial knowledge is even worse than older groups (Mottola, 2014), and for all Americans, the micro and macro (e.g., Lusardi & Mitchell, 2014) effects are profoundly troubling.

Financial Behavior

Lusardi (2011) puts forth a literature review alongside an analysis of 2009 NFCS data. In part, her review notes the importance of financial literacy toward outcomes such as accumulating wealth, planning for retirement, taking on reasonable mortgages, and investing in equities via low-cost index funds. Then, an analysis of survey data reveals that about half of Americans report difficulties paying month-to-month bills, 51% have less than a three-month rainy day fund or no emergency savings at all, and a quarter have used high-cost borrowing such as payday loans. These are just a few of the many findings showing that Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck with no safety net for unexpected events like job loss, a car breaking down, or unexpected illness (see also West & Mottola, 2016).

Gender differences. Mottola (2013) also used 2009 NFCS data to look at the gender gap with respect to credit card usage, finding that women tend to pay more interest and late fees, but suggesting that when controlling for demographics and perceived mathematical ability, the gender gap disappears. This shows that the gender gap in financial knowledge is multidimensional, relating to the gender pay gap and other inequities. It was seen in Chen and Volpe’s (2002) study that female college students have less motivation and confidence for learning about finance. These feelings of disempowerment may be related to mathematical stereotypes and may contribute to maladaptive financial behaviors such as aversion to saving (Garbinsky, Klesse, & Aaker, 2014).

Effectiveness of and Recommendations for Financial Education

When financial education works, it is often given “just-in-time,” such as requiring student loan applicants to complete relevant learning modules as a prerequisite for receiving their loan (Fernandes, Lynch, & Netemeyer, 2014). In addition, curriculum may be more easily remembered if based on benchmarks (“rules of thumb”) rather than complex decision-making criteria (Drexler, Fischer, & Schoar, 2014). This may result in improved financial decision-making subsequent to the course. At first glance, these suggestions may sound like common sense. However, in actuality most financial courses present complicated information in a lengthy format (e.g., a semester or school year), far in advance of when the insights are needed. Fernandes et al. (2014) conducted a sweeping meta-analysis of 201 financial education studies, which showed only 0.1% variance in financial behavior accounted for by financial education. In fact, the effects were weaker for those with low-income—who have the most to gain from increased financial capability, and any effects that were present generally dissipated within 20 months regardless of the length of the instructional intervention.

Although not refereed and sponsored by a corporation, Menard (2018) presents a cogent narrative about the history of American financial education and its ineffectiveness toward inciting behavioral change, citing leading researchers on financial education, psychology, and behavioral economics, while leveraging her past work on behavioral healthcare interventions (e.g., smoking cessation). Overall, despite doubling as a sales pitch for Questis, Menard (2018) points to financial coaching, just-in-time teaching, and behavioral interventions as alternatives to financial education courses that lack impact (e.g., Fernandes et al., 2014).

Hastings, Madrian, and Skimmyhorn (2013), in a narrative literature review exploring measurement of financial knowledge and the effectiveness of educational interventions. They note that while financial literacy is correlated with many beneficial financial behaviors, “the evidence is more limited and not as encouraging as one might expect” (p. 359) when it comes to financial education’s causal impact on financial outcomes. In fact, if we turn to Mandell’s prolific research (Mandell, 2006, 2009, 2012; Mandell & Klein, 2009), we see that high school students’ participation in lengthy financial courses failed to improve financial knowledge, let alone financial outcomes. Despite being a lifelong researcher and proponent of financial education, Mandell (2012) concedes that K–12 and college financial courses simply do not work, at least as presently conceived. This lends surprising credence to Willis’s long-held contention (2008, 2009, 2017) that financial education is useless and detrimental, standing in stark contrast to Lusardi’s (2011, 2017) conviction of its necessity. In fairness, a balanced conclusion is that financial education can be useful, but must be easily digestible and of immediate relevance (Drexler et al., 2014; Fernandes et al., 2014). Sadly, this is not a characteristic of the Jump$tart Coalition (2015) standards on which many financial courses are based.

References

Chen, H., & Volpe, R. P. (2002). Gender differences in personal financial literacy among college students. Financial Services Review, 11, 289–307.

de Bassa Scheresberg, C. (2013). Financial literacy and financial behavior among young adults: Evidence and implications. Numeracy, 6(2), 1–21. https://doi.org/10.5038/1936-4660.6.2.5

Drexler, A., Fischer, G., & Schoar, A. (2014). Keeping it simple: Financial literacy and rules of thumb. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 6(2), 1–31. https://doi.org/10.1257/app.6.2.1

Fernandes, D., Lynch, J. G., Jr., & Netemeyer, R. G. (2014). Financial literacy, financial education, and downstream financial behaviors. Management Science, 60, 1861–1883. http://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2013.1849

Garbinsky, E. N., Klesse, A.-K., & Aaker, J. (2014). Money in the bank: Feeling powerful increases savings. Journal of Consumer Research, 41, 610–623. https://doi.org/10.1086/676965

Hanna, S. D., Yuh, Y., & Chatterjee, S. (2012). The increasing financial obligations burden of US households: Who is affected? International Journal of Consumer Studies, 36, 588–594. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1470-6431.2012.01125.x

Hastings, J. S., Madrian, B. C., & Skimmyhorn, W. L. (2013). Financial literacy, financial education, and economic outcomes. Annual Review of Economics, 5, 347–373. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-economics-082312-125807

Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy. (2015). National standards in K–12 personal finance education, (4th ed.). Retrieved February 6, 2017, from http://www.jumpstart.org/assets/files/2015_NationalStandardsBook.pdf

Lusardi, A. (2011, June). Americans’ financial capability (Working Paper No. 17103). Washington, DC: National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w17103

Lusardi, A. (2012, February). Numeracy, financial literacy, and financial decision-making (Working Paper No. 17821). Washington, DC: National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w17821

Lusardi, A. (2017, March 9). Remarks by Annamaria Lusardi, Academic Director of the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center at the George Washington University School of Business. Meeting of the Security and Exchange Commission Investor Advisory Committee. Retrieved from https://www.sec.gov/spotlight/investor-advisory-committee-2012/lusardi-remarks-iac-030917.pdf

Lusardi, A., & Mitchell, O. S. (2007). Financial literacy and retirement preparedness: Evidence and implications for financial education. Business Economics, 10(1), 35–44.

Lusardi, A., & Mitchell, O. S. (2011). Financial literacy around the world: An overview. Journal of Pension Economics & Finance, 10, 497–508. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1474747211000448

Lusardi, A., & Mitchell, O. S. (2014). The economic importance of financial literacy: Theory and evidence. Journal of Economic Literature, 52, 5–44. https://doi.org/10.1257/jel.52.1.5

Lusardi, A., Mitchell, O. S., & Curto, V. (2010). Financial literacy among the young. The Journal of Consumer Affairs, 44, 358–380. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-6606.2010.01173.x

Mandell, L. (2006, April). Financial literacy: If it’s so important, why isn’t it improving? (Issue Brief No. 2006-PB-08). https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.923557

Mandell, L. (2009, January 4). The impact of financial education in high school and college on financial literacy and subsequent financial decision making. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Economic Association, San Francisco, CA.

Mandell, L. (2012). School-based financial education: Not ready for prime time. CFA Institute Research Foundation, 2012(3), 107–124.

Mandell, L., & Klein, L. S. (2009). The impact of financial literacy education on subsequent financial behavior. Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning, 20(1), 15–24.

Menard, M. B. (2018). So many courses, so little progress: Why financial education doesn’t work—and what does. Questis, Inc. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3098279

Mottola, G. R. (2013). In our best interest: Women, financial literacy and credit card behavior. Numeracy: Advancing Education in Quantitative Literacy, 6(2), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.5038/1936-4660.6.2.4

Mottola, G. R. (2014, March). The financial capability of young adults—A generational view. Retrieved from http://www.finra.org/file/financial-capability-young-adults%E2%80%94-generational-view

Mottola, G. R., & Kieffer, C. N. (2017). Understanding and using data from the National Financial Capability Study. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 46, 31–39. https://doi.org/10.1111/fcsr.12227

Pinto, L. E. (2013). When politics trump evidence: Financial literacy education narratives following the global financial crisis. Journal of Education Policy, 28, 95–120. https://doi.org/10.1080/02680939.2012.690163

Remund, D. L. (2010). Financial literacy explicated: The case for a clearer definition in an increasingly complex economy. The Journal of Consumer Affairs, 44, 276–295. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-6606.2010.01169.x

Thripp, R. X. (2007, April 4). Relationships between financial capability and educational attainment: An analysis of survey data from the 2015 National Financial Capability Study. Poster session presented at the University of Central Florida’s 14th Annual Graduate Research Forum, Orlando, FL. Retrieved from http://thripp.com/finedu/

Vitt, L. A., Anderson, C., Kent, J., Lyster, D. M., Siegenthaler, J. K., & Ward, J. (2000). Personal finance and the rush to competence: Financial literacy education in the U.S. Middleburg, VA: Fannie Mae Foundation.

West, S., & Mottola, G. R. (2016). A population on the brink: American renters, emergency savings, and financial fragility. Poverty & Public Policy, 8, 56–71. https://doi.org/10.1002/pop4.130

Willis, L. E. (2008). Against financial-literacy education. Iowa Law Review94, 197–285.

Willis, L. E. (2009). Evidence and ideology in assessing the effectiveness of financial literacy education. San Diego Law Review46, 415–458.

Willis, L. E. (2017). The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the quest for consumer comprehension. The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 3(1), 74–93. https://doi.org/10.7758/RSF.2017.3.1.04

On wealth, income, and savings inequality in the US; Also, the “some college” trap and value of technical colleges

This is a discussion post I wrote on 2018-04-11 for Dr. Judit Szente‘s course, EDF 6855: Equitable Educational Opportunity & Life Chances: A Cross-National Analysis, at University of Central Florida.

On wealth, income, and savings inequality in the US

The United Nations (2017) sustainable development goals seek to promote employment and income equality, particularly among disadvantaged or at-risk groups in developing countries (Goals 8 and 10). Education is important toward employment opportunities, along with the eradication of bad forms of child labor, subsistence or forced labor, and the promotion of economic development at all levels including availability of loans and other financial services to small businesses (Goal 8). Goal 10 focuses on addressing income inequality, including via a powerful antecedent—different levels of opportunity for the wealthy versus the poor. To address this, the UN suggests focusing on increasing incomes for the lower 40% of earners in developing countries, along with policies of social protection, inclusion, and progressive taxation. At the macro level, the UN suggests least developed and developing countries be given preferential treatment in matters of world trade and aid.

When reflecting on these issues, I like to compare and contrast with the situation in Florida and the US as a whole. It may be surprising to some that Florida allows several forms of child labor. Officially, children are permitted to deliver newspapers at Age 10, work on farms at Age 12, and work in many other settings (e.g., grocery stores) at Age 14. Fourteen year olds can work up to 15 hours per week during the school year and up to 40 hours per week during school breaks. I started working for pay at a public library at Age 15, and it was a source of fulfillment and satisfaction for me. However, at the same time it can be distracting from one’s academic work, particularly for children who have familial and financial stress at home. These forms of child labor are much better than young children working in sweatshops or factories full-time for low wages at the expense of their studies and family life, of course.

Income inequality is important, but the U.N. sustainable development goals are unfortunately loath to consider wealth and savings inequality. To aid comparison and contrast to the US, I refer to Saez and Zucman’s (2014) meticulous analysis of U.S. wealth inequality from 1913 to 2012, which refers to accumulated assets rather than inflows (income) for a particular year. What they have found is a U-shaped curve whereby wealth inequality was high in the 1920s, declined in the Great Depression and thereafter, and then has roared back since the 1970s, particularly with the Great Recession that began in 2008. Of particular note is that the top 0.1% almost fully account for this inequality—the 160,000 American families with net worth north of $20 million. In fact, wealth inequality is a problem of much greater magnitude than income inequality. Not only has the income rate of the top 1% been increasing faster than the lower 99%, but their wealth differential and savings rates are much higher, too.

The wealthiest Americans are a triple threat—in recent decades, their increase in earnings rates are higher than the lower 99%, they save more, and their accumulated wealth produces more wealth. Looking at problem of saving, Saez and Zucman (2014) find that Americans in the lower 90% of wealth save an average of 3% of their income, while those in the 91st–99th percentiles save 15% of their income (five times more!), and the top 1% save 20–25% of their income. For the lowest 90% of American wealth holders, savings rates declined steeply beginning in the 1970s, fueled by an explosion of consumer debt particularly in home mortgages—in fact, in 1998—2008, their savings rate was negative, meaning they took on more debt than assets. Further perpetuating their wealth inequality, about half of Americans have no exposure to stocks, which are vital to growing one’s wealth.

Wealth inequality is a big problem in the US, along with income and savings inequality. In developing countries, the consequences are dire. However, even in the US, inequality disenfranchises over half the population. It is quite challenging to personally fight inequality in developing countries without income and assets. The idea I have recently been toying with is a three-pronged approach that focuses on financial education for Americans, laws and regulations that compel employers and financial institutions to conduct business in ways that do not unfairly disadvantage the working class (e.g., comprehension rules; Willis, 2017), and a movement that encourages prosocial behaviors among employers, financial institutions, corporations, and governments that benefit the poor, going beyond what laws and regulations can do. While I will work only on one of three of these prongs (financial education), the others are equally important legs of the stool.

References

Saez, E., & Zucman, G. (2014). Wealth inequality in the United States since 1913: Evidence from capitalized income tax data (Working Paper No. 20625). Washington, DC: National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w20625

United Nations. (2017). Sustainable Development Goals: 17 goals to transform our world. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/

Willis, L. E. (2017). The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the quest for consumer comprehension. The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 3(1), 74–93. https://doi.org/10.7758/rsf.2017.3.1.04


This is a reply to another student’s discussion post I wrote on 2018-04-11 for Dr. Judit Szente‘s course, EDF 6855: Equitable Educational Opportunity & Life Chances: A Cross-National Analysis, at University of Central Florida.

On the “some college” trap and value of technical colleges

The idea that not everyone needs or would want to go to college for a traditional 2- or 4-year degree is an idea whose time has come in the US and elsewhere, in my opinion. Massive numbers of postsecondary students have “some college”—they earned credits but no degree, and yet they have the debt and reduced GPA with none of the benefits. Often, they ended up failing due to competing demands of financial stress, work, and childcare, while being unaware of withdrawal deadlines and future impacts. A student with “some college” and a low GPA, in the US, is in many ways disadvantaged compared to a high school graduate with no college credit, in a similar manner to how those with derogatory marks on their credit reports are disadvantaged compared to those with no information on their credit reports. If they go back to college, they may not be admitted or may not qualify for financial aid due to their pre-existing low GPA, and credits previously earned may become unuseful.

Vocational schools, on the other hand, train individuals more quickly in profitable fields such as welding, dental assisting, or information technology, without onerous general education requirements or multi-year programs of study. In the US, the word “college” has more respect and notoriety than “trade” or “technical” schools. Public vocational schools in Florida have recently taken advantage by rebranding themselves as colleges, such as Orange Technical College. It behooves young Floridians to know about technical colleges, along with the certificate offerings of their friendly neighborhood state colleges.

Amazon steps up customer blacklisting in April 2018; Binding arbitration clause limits customers’ legal options

My contact in California who is suing Amazon in small claims court suggests pursuing a class-action lawsuit against Amazon in a red (Republican) state (e.g., Alabama). She believes this would be a more favorable venue than the U.S. federal 9th circuit (Washington, Oregon, California) which tends to be Amazon-friendly. At the same time, Republicans often prioritize corporations over individuals’ rights to redress, so they may uphold binding arbitration clauses that prevent any court actions except small claims.

I contacted a lawfirm with this email. It may not be possible to pursue class-action due to the binding arbitration clause in Amazon’s terms, however.


Hello,

I am writing to inquire about the possibility of a class-action lawsuit against Amazon.com, Inc. regarding the many customers they have blacklisted without explanation. They refuse to return pro-rated Prime membership fees, gift card balances, stored photos, Kindle e-books, et cetera. They also do not stand by their return policy for blacklisted customers.

Beginning on Friday, March 30, 2018, Amazon.com, Inc. has stepped up their blacklisting of customers, citing TOS violations such as writing a review for an item that a customer received a discount code from the seller. Many customers did not even appear to break the terms yet have been blacklisted. Some are saying this is a glitch, but Amazon has a history of illegal practices relating to blacklisted customers dating back to 2008. Members of Amazon.com, Inc. who were banned within the past week have a Facebook group, which already has 2,795 members.

Although Amazon’s terms claim they can seize a customer’s gift card balance at any time, I believe this is in violation of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, Chapter 19.240 of the Revised Code of Washington, and Florida Statute 501.95. Amazon previously blacklisted me in August 2015 and stole my $451.20 gift card balance, but settled in February 2016 with me. However I am still trying to get them to discontinue these practices against other customers. With respect to blacklisted customers, Amazon fails to honor their return policy, does not pro-rate refunds of Prime membership, and does not allow access to order histories, purchased Kindle e-books, music, or saved files. This likely violates other laws.

One large hurdle is that Amazon’s terms say they can only be sued via small claims court. Otherwise, binding arbitration applies.

Please let me know what you think about this. If your lawfirm is not interested but you think another lawfirm would be interested, please refer me.

Thanks,
Richard Thripp, M.A.
Doctoral Student, Instructional Design & Technology
Graduate Teaching Associate – EME 2040 Instructor
University of Central Florida


In response, the lawyer said that Amazon’s Terms and Conditions prohibit anything but binding arbitration, to which I replied:


Hi, Attorney X and Jane Doe,

Jane Doe is in California and had contacted me about possibly submitting a written deposition as an expert witness regarding her small claims suit against Amazon for $3,400 of gift card balances. I had blind carbon copied her on my initial email to you.

In 2015, the NYT did an exposé, Arbitration Everywhere, Stacking the Deck of Justice. This is why Amazon and many other corporations cannot be sued via class-action, or at all, for that matter, besides small claims.

It is highly unlikely the SCOTUS would overturn their 2011 and 2013 decisions or that Amazon would be criminally charged. But, one option would be to flood them with small claims suits. Most consumers do not have the knowledge, time, or motivation to sue in small claims court unless their loss is relatively large. It would be interesting if a lawfirm could handle such suits at a large scale like traffic ticket mills.

Small claims allows discovery in some jurisdictions, which could be costly and get Amazon’s attention. In Washington state, discovery is not allowed, but in Florida, it is. Of course, people who just lost access to their photos probably wouldn’t have good cases, and losing an Amazon Prime membership is a max of $99 loss… It would make sense for people with large gift card balances to sue in small claims court, though.

Unfortunately, as a non-lawyer I am not permitted to give legal advice on my blog, the Facebook group, et cetera.

Best regards,
Richard Thripp


Note added 2018-04-11: Commentators should take note that a class-action lawsuit appears untenable against Amazon.com, Inc. due to the binding arbitration clause. In fact, any lawsuits except small claims suits are prohibited. Binding arbitration tends to result in decisions favorable to Amazon, while courts are less favorable to Amazon. This is why I have suggested law firms or individual attorneys should counsel consumers in small claims suits against Amazon at a massive scale, like law firms that specialize in traffic tickets at a low fee. Cases in which Amazon has stolen a customer’s Amazon gift card balance are especially viable in small claims courts.

Thoughts on Education, Inclusivity, School Shootings, Truancy, and Inequitable U.S. and Floridian Welfare Practices

This is a discussion post I wrote on 2018-03-30 for Dr. Judit Szente‘s course, EDF 6855: Equitable Educational Opportunity & Life Chances: A Cross-National Analysis, at University of Central Florida.

This week’s readings are broad and lengthy, making it difficult to write a compact summary or reflection. Particularly when reading Chapter 16 of UNESCO (2016), but throughout this week’s readings, I was disappointed that financial education is not mentioned. The disadvantages that poor families face are discussed at length, along with teacher salaries and job searches, school funding, and financial incentives for school attendance. Similarly, our readings emphasize that effective schooling teaches children about sexuality, sustainable lifestyles, cultural diversity, gender equality, and many other issues, but omit financial education despite the importance of financial knowledge and behaviors toward positive lifelong and inter-generational outcomes. (Although the link between financial education and knowledge/behaviors is tenuous, certain financial education pedagogies have strong support, such as “just-in-time” education. Just-in-time education is relevant to secondary students, particularly in developing countries and in poor families, who may already be working, assisting their parents and siblings financially, and making spending and saving decisions.)

Reflecting on UNESCO (2015), I see parallels between these findings and University of Central Florida’s inclusive approach. While many institutions of higher education emphasize exclusivity, President Hitt has emphasized inclusivity in the belief that expanded opportunity is not necessarily detrimental to educational quality, which parallels findings in Kenyan primary school. In fact, the chapter concludes by saying that simultaneous increase of quality and large enrollment increases are possible even for the majority of resource-constrained countries.

Reflecting on UNESCO (2016), I agree that human rights, equality, sexuality, and particularly sustainability are important curricular components. Much progress has been made in these areas, such as human rights being mentioned in about half of secondary textbooks around the start of the 21st century, as compared with only one in 20 textbooks around the 19th–20th century transition. Sustainability, of course, is a prime topic given humanity’s explosive population growth and industrialization. Education on sexuality and sustainable lifestyles may influence children not to have children in adulthood, helping to curb human population growth. In addition, it can encourage reduced consumption, recycling, et cetera.

While Chapters 3–5 of UNESCO (2017) are too wide-ranging to comment on as a whole, three issues remain that I will include in my reflection. One is also covered in UNESCO (2016): school violence and attacks. Although civil unrest, political instability, and war are often the cause, in the US we have the rather unique problem of mass murders with firearms by individuals not affiliated with a military, nor even necessarily a terrorist group. Although many more children die in automobile accidents, mass murders touch us all. They are cruel, senseless, anxiety provoking, and traumatizing. Their prevalence in the US surely inhibits teaching and learning. As an instructor of preservice teachers at UCF, at least two of my students this semester are Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School graduates, having shared this in an assignment in my course where they are given the option of producing an autobiographical mind map using Inspiration, MindMeister, or another software application.

The second issue from UNESCO (2017) I will comment on is responsibility for school effort. Chapter 5 of UNESCO (2017) shows a graph (Figure 5.1) of the transition of responsibility from parents to students for school attendance, effort, and behavior as students age and move through school. This might be likened to the fading of scaffolding during the learners’ novice–expert transition in instructional pedagogy. But, are teachers, administrators, politicians, and school staff not also responsible? As an instructor, I am always inclined to place a portion of the blame on myself for students who decide to skip class—my teaching fails to captivate their interests or motivate them to attend.

The final issue I will comment on from UNESCO (2017) is truancy and fines, with a segue into anti-productive American social welfare policies. The research cited in UNESCO (2017) shows that punitive action against students and/or parents is ineffective and actually impedes the education of disadvantaged children, as well as unduly burdening their families. The authors cite Los Angeles, CA having previously fined parents of truant children $250, plus court fees of up to $1,000. When we look at fines of any type, typically they are simply not scaled for income and/or wealth. They are regressive, not progressive. To be fair, poorer families should have no fine while families with a mansion and million-dollar yacht might need to pay a $50,000 fine for truancy. Such progressiveness is largely considered antithetical to the U.S. Constitution and culture of individualism, but in part is seen in the IRS tax brackets. Nevertheless, many American social support programs discourage upward mobility, which has inter-generational negative implications for educational attainment and multi-dimensional life outcomes. For example, individuals and families can rely on Medicaid for medical expenses, but only after all their financial assets are exhausted, and continued receipt of benefits is dependent on continued penury. If an adult receives SSI benefits for a disability, which can approach $1,000 per month, these benefits are immediately rescinded if he or she achieves $2,000 in assets (or $3,000 in joint assets if married). These hard cut-offs amount to serfdom. Through complex paperwork, one can sometimes get around them (e.g., a special account that allows an SSI-recipient to save money to purchase an automobile), but these hurdles are actually too high for the individuals and families who need relief the most. Distribution of relief in the US is abysmal, and we are not a developing country. A recent Floridian example followed Hurricane Irma, where the State of Florida distributed food benefits to those who applied. You could only apply at a centralized location per county, on one weekend, and it was not widely advertised. For instance, in Volusia County, migrant workers in Pierson or disadvantaged families in Daytona Beach would have needed to travel to the county fairgrounds in DeLand on a particular weekend, 25 miles away, to apply for benefits. What if they did not have a car, or did not hear about the program? Although the benefits distributed were large—easily $500+ for a small family, those who benefitted were probably those who needed it least, and there was no means-testing verification. Benefits distribution was staggered by county across the state in September–November 2017 with little advertising, in a manner that was most inequitable.

References

UNESCO. (2015). “Chapter 6: Goal 6: Quality of education.” EFA global monitoring report 2015: Education for all 2000–2015: Achievements and challenges. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002322/232205e.pdf

UNESCO. (2016). Global education monitoring report 2016: Education for people and the planet: Creating sustainable futures for all. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002457/245752e.pdf

UNESCO. (2017). Global education monitoring report 2017/8: Accountability in education: Meeting our commitments. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0025/002593/259338e.pdf


My response to another student’s posting:

I found your insights on inner-city teachers and the Boyd, Lankford, Loeb, and Wyckoff (2005) reference interesting! Another great reference for this is Hong’s (2012) article on teacher resilience, which finds that teacher attrition is often caused by emotional burnout in part due to lack of support from school administrators. I have heard anecdotally from teachers at UCF that it is easy, for example, to teach a class that has several children with individual education plans, but difficult or impossible if the majority of the class has special needs. In low-performing schools, the latter may be common, and a class that should probably be taught by 2–3 teachers may just have one teacher (you). Of course, it is also difficult to find a teacher who works fewer than 40 hours per week, so the commuting issue that Boyd et al. (2005) cite is quite important. A commute can easily add 10 hours of unproductive time per week, which compounds the untenability of a job that may be lacking work–life balance even if you could live at the school.

References

Boyd, D., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2005). Explaining the short careers of high-achieving teachers in schools with low-performing students. The American Economic Review, 95, 166–171. https://doi.org/10.1257/000282805774669628

Hong (2012). Why do some beginning teachers leave the school, and others stay? Understanding teacher resilience through psychological lenses. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice18, 417–440. https://doi.org/10.1080/13540602.2012.696044

Women and Children in Bangladesh: The Effects of the Grameen Bank, the World Bank, and the Global Partnership for Education

This is a paper I completed on 2018-03-01 for Dr. Judit Szente‘s course, EDF 6855: Equitable Educational Opportunity & Life Chances: A Cross-National Analysis, at University of Central Florida.

Women and Children in Bangladesh: The Effects of the Grameen Bank, the World Bank, and the Global Partnership for Education
Richard Thripp
University of Central Florida

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effectiveness of three institutions at improving educational and financial outcomes for women and children in the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, a densely populated South Asian country that borders India. It is a United Nation’s “least developed country,” with many of the 163 million residents living in poverty.

The Grameen Bank

The Grameen Bank was founded by Dr. Muhammad Yunus in the 1970s to provide small loans to poor Bangladeshis living in rural areas. Billed as the “bank for the poor,” in 2006, the bank and its founder won a Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. In particular, the bank focuses on loans to women so they can start or further their small businesses. Unlike other banks, Grameen lends to the poor without collateral at a lower interest rate (16% per year). A mandatory component is regular meetings with a support group of four other prospective borrowers—the bank builds “collective responsibility” by requiring a pilot test with two of five borrowers from each support group before the other three are allowed to borrow (Grameen Bank, 2018). As of 2006, the bank claims it had loaned a total of $24 billion USD to nine million borrowers.

In 1996, Pitt and Khandker administered questionnaires to loan recipients in Bangladesh, and found that although Grameen loans improved household wealth for both males and females, the loans especially helped girl’s schooling and empowered women to participate in the labor force. The authors looked at micro-loans to men as well, finding that such men were more likely to enroll their children in school and to use contraceptives. The Grameen Bank can be seen as a “three-in-one,” so to speak—an anti-poverty program, a pro-education program, and a women’s empowerment program. However, the authors note that in addition to the micro-loans themselves, the support groups with four other borrowers might contribute to positive outcomes for Grameen loan recipients. Regardless, both components are important parts of the Grameen program, which has shown excellent results in benefitting the poor. At the same time, it has managed to be cash-flow positive while lending to people who are seen as undeserving of credit by traditional banks and lenders.

Kabeer (2001) provides an account that factors in the nuances of a patriarchal culture and gender differences. In particular, even wealthy women may be discouraged from pursuing entrepreneurial efforts due to sexist stigmas in Bangladesh. A prime finding of importance, however, is that women who receive micro-loans are more likely to share it with their family, benefiting their children’s education and their partner, in addition to their business venture. However, men are less likely to share the micro-loan. Therefore, lending to women has the inherent benefit of an increased chance of benefiting the entire household rather than just the husband, father, or man.

A dissenting viewpoint is Karim’s (2008), who blasts the Grameen Bank for its 98% loan recovery rate. Karim argues that the rural poor are being subjugated by Grameen, which is only cemented by their 2006 Nobel prize award—specifically, that “Bangladeshi rural women’s honor and shame are instrumentally appropriated by micro-credit NGOs in the furtherance of their capitalist interests” (p. 5). Nonetheless, Grameen inarguably offers collateral-free loans to those who would not typically qualify, at interest rates that are relatively fair—16% per year. Even a creditworthy borrower in the US might be charged a higher interest rate on a credit card. Like educational stipends which provide direct support for rural girls to go to school (Hahn, Islam, Nuzhat, Smyth, & Yang, 2018), micro-loans can support women’s capital expenditures needed to jump-start a successful business, such as purchasing equipment or inventory.

The World Bank

The World Bank provides loans and grants to poor and developing countries for projects that alleviate poverty and promote economic growth (World Bank, 2018e). It has two main branches: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), which offers loans with interest to countries able to repay, and the International Development Association (IDA), which, via subsidies and donations from member countries, offers interest-free loans to the poorest countries (World Bank, n.d.). IDA recipients must have growth national income (GNI) of about $1,200 USD per person or less, on average—a threshold Bangladesh is about to cross which will make it an IDA/IBRD “blend” country subject to 2% annual interest on its many existing IDA loans rather than 0.75% as it paid in the 2017 fiscal year and before (Dhaka Tribune, 2017). While $1,200 per person is low compared to the US, it is an important milestone for Bangladesh and other poor-but-developing countries.

Bangladesh receives many IDA loans, including ones that benefit women and children. The IDA committed $510 million in December 2017 toward the Transforming Secondary Education for Results Operation (World Bank, 2018d), dedicated to addressing Bangladesh’s education gap—less than a quarter of its 57 million workers have completed secondary education. The IDA has also specifically benefitted out-of-school children via a $130 million loan in 2013 that helped blanket one-third of the country with 20,400 learning centers in rural and disadvantaged areas, which have enrolled 690,000 students (World Bank, 2017b). While academic publications on the IDA’s recent efforts are scant, it would appear the IDA has made a powerful impact to benefit children and women in Bangladesh. For example, another $500 million IDA loan aims to establish “safety net systems for the poorest” (World Bank, 2018a), and a $29 million loan targets women’s economic empowerment in Bangladesh’s poor northern region (World Bank, 2018b).

Sarker and Salam (2011) performed a gender-based literature review of the impacts of the World Bank and UNESCO toward primary education in Bangladesh. Overall, they speculated that the bank’s efforts toward alleviating poverty had resulted in increased primary school enrollment—76% in 1991 compared to 98% in 2008 (91% net)—because poverty is a prime reason for failure to enroll in school. The authors also commended the World Bank for recommending focusing on girls’ education, and noted that Bangladesh’s culture is a limiting factor because it may discourage girls from going to school. Further academic research is needed to examine the World Bank’s substantial recent efforts toward education, gender equality, and poverty alleviation in Bangladesh.

The Global Partnership for Education

The Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) efforts in Bangladesh focus on implementing a World Bank IDA-funded project called the Primary Education Development Program III (World Bank, 2018c), a $9.8 billion program to improve primary education equality, quality, and participation. The project is primarily funded by Bangladesh’s government, along with loans from the IDA and other organizations, plus a $100 million grant from the GPE for “implementation of the entire program as budget support” (GPE, 2018b), which Bangladesh began receiving in 2016. Disbursement of the grant is tied to nine key indicators including distribution of textbooks and increasing completion rates of Grade 5 primary exams.

Founded in 2002, the GPE funds education in developing countries around the world, focusing on primary and pre-primary education, girls, out-of-school children, and disadvantaged children in general (GPE, 2018a). Bangladesh was the 60th country to receive funding, and $100 million is the maximum amount a country can receive. Use of the money is wide-ranging within the IDA-funded project, and the GPE’s contribution has aided large progress for children in Bangladesh. Primary enrollment increased from 84.7% in 2010 to 98.0% in 2017, with completion rates increasing from 54.9% to 80.8% in the same timeframe (GPE, 2018b; World Bank, 2017b). Now, 32.8% of schools meet the Primary School Quality Level Indicators as compared to 17% in 2010, which is still low, but much better than before. The vast majority of schools receive their textbooks within the first month of the school year now, and 2,032 teachers have been recruited or trained.

Although the GPE is a small part of educational funding in Bangladesh that began funding the country only two years ago, its focus on rigor and standards and its experience working in other developing countries has likely contributed greatly to the wellbeing of women and children in Bangladesh, by improving educational access and quality. If they continue to be sustained, these efforts will have a positive impact for many decades to come.

Summary

The efforts of the Grameen Bank, World Bank, and Global Partnership for Education synergize. Grameen focuses on micro-loans to poor people in rural areas to start or further their business ventures. Although these people are often uneducated and do not gain education directly from the micro-loans, their financial standing tends to improve, which can allow them to provide better nutritional and educational opportunities to their children. The World Bank’s focus is broad and wide-ranging, including infrastructure and electrification projects not relevant here, but also many educational and poverty-mitigating initiatives, such as constructing a social safety net. These projects are quite important toward equity of chances and outcomes for poor women and children. The GPE, through both its organizational capital and direct financial support administered by the World Bank, improves the scope and quality of primary education in Bangladesh which further enables upward economic mobility for the poor. Overall, the efforts of these three organizations, along with many other stakeholders including a substantial commitment from the Bangladesh government, are helping to move Bangladesh from the list of least-developed countries toward the list of middle-income countries.

References

Dhaka Tribune (2017, October 13). World Bank loan to be costlier for Bangladesh from next FY. Retrieved from http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2017/10/13/world-bank-loan-costlier-bangladesh-next-fy/

Global Partnership for Education (2018a). About us. Retrieved from https://www.globalpartnership.org/about-us

Global Partnership for Education (2018b). Education in Bangladesh. Retrieved from https://www.globalpartnership.org/country/bangladesh

Grameen Bank (2018). Credit delivery system. Retrieved from http://www.grameen.com/credit-delivery-system/

Kabeer, N. (2001). Conflicts over credit: Re-evaluating the empowerment potential of loans to women in rural Bangladesh. World Development29, 63–84. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0305-750X(00)00081-4

Karim, L. (2008). Demystifying micro-credit. Cultural Dynamics, 20, 5–29. https://doi.org/10.1177/0921374007088053

Pitt, M. M., & Khandker, S. R. (1996). Household and intrahousehold impact of the Grameen Bank and similar targeted credit programs in Bangladesh. Washington, DC: World Bank Publications.

Sarker, M. F. H., & Salam, M. A. (2011). The roles of the World Bank and UNESCO in primary education in Bangladesh: A gender based analysis. Society & Change, 5(4), 7–20.

World Bank (n.d.). Where does the World Bank get its money? Retrieved from http://siteresources.worldbank.org/ESSDNETWORK/Resources/481106-1129303936381/1777397-1129303967165/1777403-1129304010757/where_does.html

World Bank (2017a, June 22). Bangladesh: Primary education development program III: Implementation status & results report. Retrieved from http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/222361498133400029/pdf/ISR-Disclosable-P113435-06-22-2017-1498133389760.pdf

World Bank (2017b, October 15). Bangladesh: Reaching out of school children II: Implementation status & results report. Retrieved from http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/907101508067358869/pdf/Disclosable-Version-of-the-ISR-BD-Reaching-Out-of-School-Children-II-P131394-Sequence-No-09.pdf

World Bank (2018a). Bangladesh safety net systems for the poorest project. Retrieved from http://projects.worldbank.org/P132634/bangladesh-safety-net-systems-poorest-project?lang=en&tab=overview

World Bank (2018b). Northern areas reduction-of-poverty initiative project: Women’s economic empowerment project. Retrieved from http://projects.worldbank.org/P113435/primary-education-development-program-iii?lang=en&tab=overview

World Bank (2018c). Primary education development program III. Retrieved from http://projects.worldbank.org/P114841/northern-areas-reduction-of-poverty-initiative-project-womens-economic-empowerment-project?lang=en

World Bank (2018d). Transforming secondary education for results operation. Retrieved from http://projects.worldbank.org/P160943/?lang=en&tab=overview

World Bank (2018e). What we do. Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/en/what-we-do

Youjin, H., Islam, A., Nuzhat, K., Smyth, R., & Yang, H.-S. (2018). Education, marriage, and fertility: Long-term evidence from a female stipend program in Bangladesh. Economic Development & Cultural Change, 66, 383–415. https://doi.org/10.1086/694930

Writing on finance, education, et cetera