Financial Literacy Among American Indians and Alaska Natives

TitleFinancial Literacy Among American Indians and Alaska Natives
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsMurphy, JL, Gourd, A, Begay, F
InstitutionSocial Security Administration, Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics
KeywordsNet Worth and Assets, Retirement Planning and Satisfaction, Women and Minorities

Many Americans lack important financial skills and knowledge of critical concepts that can help ensure sound retirement planning and future economic security. Prior research has suggested that low levels of financial literacy are particularly acute among certain groups such as women, blacks, and persons with lower levels of educational attainment (Dunaway-Knight and others 2012; Hung, Parker, and Yoong 2009; Huston 2010; Lusardi 2008; A. Murphy 2005). This study adds to previous work on financial literacy among minority groups by examining the American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) population. Prior research on AIANs has often used convenience samples of university students and has been limited by the lack of nationally representative samples (for example, Anderson and others (2010); Chen and Volpe (2002); Mandell (2009); and Mandell and Klein (2007)). In this note, we use a nationally representative sample from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to analyze how AIAN respondents scored on the 2008 HRS financial literacy module compared with white respondents (reference group) and other minority groups. The HRS is one of the foremost sources of information on the population aged 50 or older. We use an 18-item financial sophistication and investment decision-making (FSIDM) questionnaire.1 Each correct answer receives one point; thus, the scale ranges from 0 to 18, with higher values representing more financial sophistication. The FSIDM questionnaire has been widely used in other studies to investigate financial literacy (for example, Agarwal and others (2009); Lusardi (2008); Lusardi and Mitchell (2007, 2008, 2011); and Lusardi, Mitchell, and Curto (2009)). Researchers have primarily used the FSIDM questionnaire to examine overall knowledge of financial literacy across broad swaths of the older U.S. population by sex, age, income, and race. However, racial differences in the aforementioned studies have been primarily limited to those between blacks and whites. Our analysis finds that the mean number of questions that AIAN respondents correctly answered was significantly lower than the comparable figures for white, black, and Asian respondents. For each of the 18 questions in the module, we find that there are specific financial literacy topics in which the knowledge gap between AIANs and other race/ethnic groups was particularly large. However, a limited sample size constrains this analysis, and additional data and research are needed to fully address financial literacy within the AIAN population.

Endnote Keywords

Native Americans/financial literacy/retirement planning/economic security/American Indians/Alaska Natives

Endnote ID


Citation Key5845