Are Women Really More Risk‐Averse than Men? A Re‐Analysis of the Literature Using Expanded Methods

20 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2015

See all articles by Julie A. Nelson

Julie A. Nelson

University of Massachusetts at Boston - Department of Economics; Tufts University - Global Development and Environment Institute

Date Written: July 2015

Abstract

While a substantial literature in economics and finance has concluded that ‘women are more risk averse than men’, this conclusion merits investigation. After briefly clarifying the difference between making generalizations about groups, on the one hand, and making valid inferences from samples, on the other, this essay suggests improvements to how economists communicate our research results. Supplementing findings of statistical significance with quantitative measures of both substantive difference (Cohen's d, a measure in common use in non‐Economics literatures) and of substantive overlap (the Index of Similarity, newly proposed here) adds important nuance to the discussion of sex differences. These measures are computed from the data on men, women and risk used in 35 scholarly works from economics, finance and decision science. The results are considerably more mixed and overlapping than would commonly be inferred from the broad claims made in the literature, with standardized differences in means mostly amounting to considerably less than one standard deviation, and the degree of overlap between male and female distributions generally exceeding 80%. In addition, studies that look at contextual influences suggest that these contribute importantly to observations of differences both between and within the sexes.

Keywords: Difference, Effect size, Gender, Risk, Sex, Similarity

Suggested Citation

Nelson, Julie A., Are Women Really More Risk‐Averse than Men? A Re‐Analysis of the Literature Using Expanded Methods (July 2015). Journal of Economic Surveys, Vol. 29, Issue 3, pp. 566-585, 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2620889 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/joes.12069

Julie A. Nelson (Contact Author)

University of Massachusetts at Boston - Department of Economics ( email )

100 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.umb.edu/academics/cla/dept/economics/faculty/facultyNelson.html

Tufts University - Global Development and Environment Institute ( email )

MA
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/about_us/researchers.html#nelson

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