Article 3

2023-06-12 Simona Cuomo

Gender Gap: The Role of Financial Education

In an increasingly complex world where governments have transferred the responsibility of savings to citizens, financial literacy can heavily impact the fate and independence of an individual. Unfortunately, international data, data from Italy as well, still shows a significant gap in skills between men and women. This is a legacy of a past that continues to influence the family educational context and the sociocultural environment.


Financial education aims to provide useful tools for understanding the functioning of "money" in order to make informed and conscious decisions regarding one's savings and wealth. In fact, in an increasingly complex economic world where governments have transferred the responsibility of savings to citizens (think, for example, of the reduction in state pensions or the ease of accessing credit), it becomes a crucial skill for both pursuing long-term economic stability and the ability to achieve future goals for oneself and one's family.

Financial literacy can positively influence the fate of an individual not only from a material perspective but also by contributing to the development of a high degree of economic autonomy, which in turn generates positive impacts on a person's psychological independence. In other words, financial independence shields individuals from the uncertainty of the economic and social context, while psychological independence liberates people from life choices that, influenced by the need to ensure their own sustenance, could even jeopardize themselves. The topic of financial education is closely connected to that of economic violence, defined by the European Institute for Gender Equality as " Any act or behaviour which causes economic harm to an individual. Economic violence can take the form of, for example, property damage, restricting access to financial resources, education or the labour market, or not complying with economic responsibilities, such as alimony."[1]

Research conducted to date has documented very low levels of financial literacy in the population.[2] Moreover, in addition to being widespread in general, financial illiteracy is particularly severe among women.[3] Data shows that gender differences exist everywhere, from developing economies to advanced ones.

As regards our country, the most interesting aspect in analyzing the financial skills of the population[4] relates to their relationship with education level (greater among graduates), age (greater after the age of 35), and region of residence (greater in Northern Italy). The gender gap is particularly pronounced in terms of knowledge, especially among those with lower educational qualifications residing in the South. Starting from a re-elaboration of data on financial literacy from the OECD-INFE 2020,[5] a recent study[6] has shown that women, who have a lower level of literacy, are on average more exposed to economic violence than men. In Italy, the issue of economic dependence appears to be the most significant aspect: in our country, 21.5% of women are in a condition of financial dependence, compared, for example, to 5.09% in Germany, 5.13% in Austria, 7.25% in Slovenia, and 9.73% in Poland. According to OECD PISA data,[7] the gender gap in financial literacy is already evident in our country during the school years.

Recent studies[8] underline how the causes can be traced both to the family educational context and the sociocultural environment, as well as to historical legacy. It is known, in fact, that the historical condition of women in society has been characterized by various limitations in the economic sphere based on a composite stereotyping that went something like this: "We don't talk about money with girls/women... because there will be someone taking care of them." Thus, starting from restrictions on work activities, women have often been prevented from knowing the family income, having an allowance, a credit card, or an ATM card. They were not allowed to use their own money, in short. On the contrary, constant control was exerted over how much and how they spent, even to the extent of economic blackmail during separation and non-payment of child support, including that ordered by a court of law. To date, these phenomena have not been quantified, but I believe they sound familiar in the lived experience of many of us.

The relationship between women and money is, therefore, a complex issue that reflects the social, cultural, and economic dynamics present in society. Recognizing that inequalities in financial literacy result in greater social fragility for many women, numerous initiatives have emerged to bridge this gap: at the political level, the establishment of the Edufin Committee;[9] at the social level, where numerous associations and initiatives have been created to support women's financial education;[10] and in the labor market, where some companies[11] have committed to promoting programs in this direction.

[1] link inserito non corretto!

[2] Lusardi, A., Mitchell O.S., 2014. The Economic Importance of Financial Literacy: Theory and Evidence. Journal of Economic Literature, 52(1), 5-44.

[3] Klapper L., Lusardi A., 2020, Financial Literacy and Financial Resilience: Evidence from around the World, Financial Management, Vol. 49, 589-614.

[8] Bottazzi L.,   Lusardi A.,  2020, Stereotypes in financial literacy: evidence from PISA, Working Paper 28065

[9] The goal of the Committee is to plan and coordinate financial education activities in the country, both directly and in collaboration with public and private organizations. The Committee has established a national strategy aimed at the entire Italian population, with a specific section focusing on young people, and has defined the first set of national guidelines for financial education, both for young people (primary and secondary school students) and for adults.

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