33 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2009
Date Written: March 2009
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.
Keywords: coeducation, controlled experiment, gender, identity, risk attitudes, risk aversion, single-sex schooling
JEL Classification: C9, C91, C92, J16
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Booth, Alison L. and Nolen, Patrick J., Gender Differences in Risk Behaviour: Does Nurture Matter? (March 2009). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP7198. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1356427
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