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Sex-Difference in Risk-Taking and Promotions in Hierarchies: Evidence from Females in Legislatures

44 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2011 Last revised: 8 Sep 2011

Dino Falaschetti

U.S. House of Representatives

Date Written: August 31, 2011


Suzanne Scotchmer (2008) showed how a sex difference in risk taking can cause promotional patterns to differ across sex, even if discrimination is absent and candidate-ability is identically distributed across males and females. In this model, (1) winner-take-all promotions favor risk-taking males, but (2) promoted females enjoy greater ability and (3) see this advantage depreciate with repeated play. We find evidence for each of these implications – first in how the sex composition of national legislatures differs across electoral mechanisms (winner-take-all chambers employ a significantly greater proportion of males), and second in how re-election prospects for US Representatives differ by sex (females expect longer durations in a winner-take-all chamber, but only when evaluated early in their incumbencies). These results cannot easily be dismissed as statistical artifacts, are difficult to rationalize within received models, and have important implications for affirmative action doctrines and corporate fiduciary duties.

Keywords: Winner-take-all games, endogenous preference formation, risk aversion, electoral rules, female representation in legislatures, affirmative action, corporate law

JEL Classification: B52, D72, J16, J71, J78

Suggested Citation

Falaschetti, Dino, Sex-Difference in Risk-Taking and Promotions in Hierarchies: Evidence from Females in Legislatures (August 31, 2011). Journal of Law and Economics, Forthcoming; FSU College of Law, Law, Business & Economics Paper No. 11-16; FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 535. Available at SSRN:

Dino Falaschetti (Contact Author)

U.S. House of Representatives ( email )

Committee on Financial Services
2129 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC District of Columbia 20515
United States

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