What We’re Reading: Can Social Capital Supplement Financial Education


A Brookings research report, Who You Know: Relationships, networks and social capital in boosting educational opportunity for young Americans , explores how individuals and communities benefit from “social capital,” which the researchers define as, “interpersonal relationships that can impact educational outcomes.” The research, which specifically focuses on students’ choices to pursue higher education, discusses the roles of:

  • “Bonding social capital” (relationships that help one get by) vs. “bridging social capital” (relationships that help one get ahead).
  • Families acting as important accelerators (or brakes) on student opportunities.
  • Mentors from different backgrounds providing wider network opportunities.
  • Peer networks within cohorts to provide support.

While the research focuses on one specific topic, the concept is useful to drive success in other areas, such as financial education. This was an underlying point in conversations during our Financial Education Policy Convenings (and revisited in our podcast series):

The Brookings report concludes with the statement, “social capital has an important role to play in the lifting up of all young Americans, but especially those with the fewest advantages—and today, as much as ever.” Financial education isn’t a “silver bullet” and there is not a “one-size-fits-all” curricula that is universally perfect. Therefore, learning beyond the classroom, from entities such as social capital groups, can be an impactful supplement that turns theoretical knowledge into practical choices.

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