Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 457–473 | Cite as

How Social Class Shapes Adolescent Financial Socialization: Understanding Differences in the Transition to Adulthood

  • Sigrid Luhr
Original Paper


Gaining financial independence is considered a key component of the transition to adulthood. Yet we know little about how adolescents learn to navigate the financial world or how social class shapes this process. Drawing on interviews with 52 parents and adolescents in the United States, this study explored how children learn about finances from their parents. Middle-class parents in the sample were more proactive in teaching their children about finances. Working-class parents, however, often felt unequipped to teach financial skills and were more likely to shelter their children from financial matters. Ultimately, middle-class adolescents felt more at ease when navigating financial institutions, while working-class adolescents expressed greater uncertainty and were left to grapple with imperfect and sometimes contradictory information about finances.


Adolescents Financial socialization Inequality Parenting Social class 



I am wholly indebted to Frank Furstenberg, without whom this project would not exist. Laura Napolitano, Roberta R. Iversen, and Patricia Tevington were each essential to the data collection process and offered meaningful support along the way. I am grateful for the feedback provided by Sandra Smith, Irene Bloemraad, John Lie, Danny Schneider, Susan Holloway, Alex Brewer, the members of the UC Berkeley Gender and Sexuality Workshop, and the editor and two anonymous reviewers. Special thanks to the families interviewed for the project for inviting us into their homes and speaking so candidly. Any mistakes, of course, are my own.


This work was supported by the Russell Sage Foundation [Grant Number 83-09-01].

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Sigrid Luhr declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

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