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Financial Knowledge among Educated Women: Room for Improvement




  • Mahnaz Mahdavi ( is a Professor of Economics at Smith College. Nicholas J. Horton ( is a Professor of Statistics at Amherst College. The authors are thankful for the helpful comments and suggestions from the reviewers, which have strengthened this manuscript. They acknowledge support for this project by the Center for Women and Financial Independence at Smith College and assistance from the Alumnae Association of Smith College. They thank their research assistants Thealexa Becker, Shreeya Rajanarayanan, Melody Wu, Haomin Yan, and Wenyue Yang. They are indebted to Rene Heavlow for her work on the WFI survey and data preparation.


We examined financial knowledge among educated women with at least a bachelor's degree by analyzing the results from a 2009 survey representing a well-defined sample (N = 4,344) of alumnae from a highly selective liberal arts college for women. This study found modest levels of financial knowledge with wide variation. Specifically, in the sample of alumnae, respondents in an older cohort, with higher household income, and those who obtained an MBA degree exhibit higher levels of financial knowledge. These results highlighted the need for effective financial education for many college-educated women.