Financial Social Work

  • Margaret S. SherradenEmail author
  • Jodi Jacobson Frey
  • Julie Birkenmaier


Beginning in the Progressive Era, social workers collaborated with home economists to improve financial wellbeing in US cities swelling with poor rural migrants and immigrants. Today, in the wake of the Recession, there is a resurgence of interest in financial social work (FSW) in an era where finances increasingly shape human wellbeing. With a focus on low-income and financially vulnerable communities, social workers provide financial guidance and education, and access to sound financial supports, services, and wealth building opportunities. Social science theory and key social work principles—including person-in-environment and the strengths perspective—guide FSW practice. Social workers use direct practice, organizational development, community organizing, policy advocacy, and research to help households achieve income sufficiency, financial capability, and asset building. Looking to the future, schools of social work are launching FSW curricula aimed at tackling growing economic challenges affecting financially vulnerable households and communities.


Asset building Community organizing Financial capability Financial counseling Financial education Financial social work Financial vulnerability Person-in-environment perspective Policy practice Research 



We extend sincere appreciation to Wells Fargo Advisors, Arthur Vining Davis, and Woodside Foundation for their support. We would like to acknowledge many people who have contributed, directly or indirectly, to this chapter. Thanks to Cynthia Sanders, Paul Stuart, Michael Sherraden, and an anonymous reviewer for helpful insights and suggestions for this chapter. We are also grateful to many friends and social work colleagues who, over the years, have contributed to our thinking about financial social work, especially Mimi Abramovitz, Deborah Adams, David Ansong, Jeroo Billamoria, Christine Callahan, Gina Chowa, Peter Coser, Sally Hageman, Jin Huang, Lissa Johnson, David Lander, Don Linhorst, Vernon Loke, Gena McClendon, Emily McGinnis, Robin McKinney, Sudha Nair, Michael Rochelle, Edward Scanlon, Meg Schnabel, Jasmine Thomas, Meg Woodside, Eric Zegel, members of the Financial Social Work Scholar Network, and our students at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, University of Maryland-Baltimore, and Saint Louis University.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret S. Sherraden
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jodi Jacobson Frey
    • 3
  • Julie Birkenmaier
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Social WorkUniversity of Missouri-St. LouisSt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Washington University in St. Louis, One University BoulevardSt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.School of Social WorkUniversity of Maryland, BaltimoreBaltimoreUSA
  4. 4.School of Social WorkSaint Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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