Gender Differences in Risk Behaviour: Does Nurture Matter?

32 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2009

See all articles by Alison L. Booth

Alison L. Booth

Australian National University (ANU) - Research School of Social Sciences (RSSS); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Patrick J. Nolen

University of Essex; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Abstract

Women and men may differ in their propensity to choose a risky outcome because of innate preferences or because their innate preferences are modified by pressure to conform to gender-stereotypes. Single-sex environments are likely to modify students' risk-taking preferences in economically important ways. To test this, our controlled experiment gave subjects an opportunity to choose a risky outcome - a real-stakes gamble with a higher expected monetary value than the alternative outcome with a certain payoff - and in which the sensitivity of observed risk choices to environmental factors could be explored. The results show that girls from single-sex schools are as likely to choose the real-stakes gamble as much as boys from either coed or single sex schools, and more likely than coed girls. Moreover, gender differences in preferences for risk-taking are sensitive to the gender mix of the experimental group, with girls being more likely to choose risky outcomes when assigned to all-girl groups. This suggests that observed gender differences in behaviour under uncertainty found in previous studies might reflect social learning rather than inherent gender traits.

Keywords: gender identity, controlled experiment, risk aversion, risk attitudes

JEL Classification: C9, C91, C92, J16

Suggested Citation

Booth, Alison L. and Nolen, Patrick J., Gender Differences in Risk Behaviour: Does Nurture Matter?. IZA Discussion Paper No. 4026, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1351190

Alison L. Booth (Contact Author)

Australian National University (ANU) - Research School of Social Sciences (RSSS) ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200
Australia
+61 2 6125 3285 (Phone)
+61 2 6125 0182 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Patrick J. Nolen

University of Essex ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester, CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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