Low numeracy is associated with poor financial well-being around the world

Numeracy refers to the ability to use numbers, including converting percentages (e.g., 10%) into absolute frequencies (e.g., 1 in 10). Studies have suggested that numeracy is correlated to financial outcomes, suggesting its relevance to financial decisions. However, almost all research on numeracy has been conducted in high-income countries in Europe and North America. Our analyses suggest that low numeracy is much more common in low-income countries, thus potentially threatening the financial well-being of the world’s poorest. We analyzed data from the Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll, which assessed basic numeracy in 141 countries, including 21 low-income, 34 lower middle income, 43 upper middle income, and 43 high-income countries. Numeracy was associated with being among the poorest 20% of one’s country, and with difficulty living on one’s income, even after accounting for income, education, and demographics. These findings underscore the importance of worldwide numeracy education.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.


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