Publication Date



Youth in the United States are facing an increasingly complex and perilous financial world. Economically disadvantaged youth, in particular, lack financial knowledge and access to mainstream financial institutions. Despite growing interest in youth financial literacy, we have not seen comparable efforts to improve institutional access to financial institutions and services. Instead of aiming for financial literacy, we suggest aiming for financial capability, a concept that builds on the writing of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum. The paper proposes that financial capability results when individuals develop financial knowledge and skills, but also gain access to financial instruments and institutions. The paper addresses theoretical and pedagogical approaches to increasing financial capability, followed by examples of programs. Questions for further study are suggested. In the conclusion, we discuss implications for policy and practice.

Document Type

Working Paper


Financial Inclusion


Financial Capability


Subsequent publication: Johnson, E., & Sherraden, M.S. (2007). From financial literacy to financial capability among youth. Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 34(3), 119–145.

Original Citation

Johnson, E., & Sherraden, M. S. (2006). From financial literacy to financial capability among youth (CSD Working Paper No. 06-11). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.


I Can Save


financial education, children, saving, financial capability, CDA