Gender Differences in Risk Behaviour: Does Nurture Matter?
Alison L. Booth
Australian National University (ANU) - Research School of Social Sciences (RSSS); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)
Patrick J. Nolen
University of Essex
CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP7198
Women and men may differ in their propensity to choose a risky outcome because of innate preferences or because pressure to conform to gender-stereotypes encourages girls and boys to modify their innate preferences. Single-sex environments are likely to modify students' risk-taking preferences in economically important ways. To test this, we designed a controlled experiment in which subjects were given 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 of our real-stakes gamble show that gender differences in preferences for risk-taking are indeed sensitive to whether the girl attends a single-sex or coed school. 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.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 33
Keywords: coeducation, controlled experiment, gender, identity, risk attitudes, risk aversion, single-sex schooling
JEL Classification: C9, C91, C92, J16
Date posted: March 11, 2009