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Odders-White Awarded Federal Research Grant, Serving as Co-Investigator for CFS Study Funded by U.S. Treasury

by Marguerite Darlington Friday, October 17, 2014

Elizabeth Odders-White, the U.S. Bank Associate Professor in the Department of Finance, Investment, and Banking at the Wisconsin School of Business, will serve as co-investigator for an innovative study designed to increase the financial capability of elementary school students.

The study, based in the Center for Financial Security (CFS) at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Human Ecology, received nearly $440,000 from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Empowerment Innovation Fund.

Elizabeth Odders-White, Associate Professor of Finance and Associate Dean of the Full-Time MBA Program.

Odders-White will work with principal investigator J. Michael Collins, director of CFS, on “My Classroom Economy: Developing Life-Long Financial Capability through Experiential Learning for Elementary Students,” an experiential learning study using a “simulated economy” in which students practice making spending and saving decisions while learning about the consequences of their choices in real time.

According to Odders-White, “Providing financial education for youth holds great promise, but we don’t yet know what types of programs are most effective. This study is an important step towards understanding how best to prepare kids for their financial futures. We are thrilled that the Department of the Treasury is supporting our efforts.”

The concept of My Classroom Economy was initially developed by award-winning Los Angeles teacher Rafe Esquith for his fifth grade students. Investment management firm Vanguard consulted with Mr. Esquith to expand the program to include all K-12 students and provide all materials and instructions free of charge to make it easy and economical for schools to implement. 

The program, which tests the effects of role-playing in a simulated economy on fourth and fifth grade students through a large-scale, randomized controlled trial, focuses on:

  • Determining if a simulated classroom economy delivers student learning about financial management.
  • Assessing the program impact on student behavior and overall school performance.
  • Documenting the implementation of the simulated classroom economy and obtaining teachers’ views of its costs and benefits relative to formal financial education curricula.
  • Understanding how the spending and savings decisions of students evolve over time.

“Finding support for this kind of research is challenging,” Collins says. “These awards are critical to advancing our work in the areas of youth financial education and understanding student decision making related to borrowing.”

The Treasury has recently awarded more than $6.2 million for 11 research projects under its Financial Empowerment Innovation Fund. These projects will develop, test, and evaluate new ways to empower Americans with their finances and help them access safe and affordable financial products and services. These research projects focus on several areas including: promoting more informed decision making in higher education, promoting innovations in payments and savings, and bringing dynamic financial education to more classrooms.

In addition to her endowed professorship and her work as associate dean of the Full-Time MBA Program at the Wisconsin School of Business, Odders-White is also the affiliate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Financial Security. CFS is an applied, interdisciplinary research center that informs strategies which build financial capability and security and examines the role of products, policies, and advice in helping households overcome personal financial challenges.