Risk Preferences of Children and Adolescents in Relation to Gender, Cognitive Skills, Soft Skills, and Executive Functions

37 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2019

See all articles by James Andreoni

James Andreoni

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Amalia Di Girolamo

University of Birmingham

John A. List

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Claire Mackevicius

Northwestern University

Anya Samek

Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR); University of Southern California - Department of Economics

Date Written: April 2019

Abstract

We conduct experiments eliciting risk preferences with over 1,400 children and adolescents aged 3-15 years old. We complement our data with an assessment of cognitive and executive function skills. First, we find that adolescent girls display significantly greater risk aversion than adolescent boys. This pattern is not observed among young children, suggesting that the gender gap in risk preferences emerges in early adolescence. Second, we find that at all ages in our study, cognitive skills (specifically math ability) are positively associated with risk taking. Executive functions among children, and soft skills among adolescents, are negatively associated with risk taking. Third, we find that greater risk-tolerance is associated with higher likelihood of disciplinary referrals, which provides evidence that our task is equipped to measure a relevant behavioral outcome. For academics, our research provides a deeper understanding of the developmental origins of risk preferences and highlights the important role of cognitive and executive function skills to better understand the association between risk preferences and cognitive abilities over the studied age range.

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Suggested Citation

Andreoni, James and Di Girolamo, Amalia and List, John A. and Mackevicius, Claire and Samek, Anya, Risk Preferences of Children and Adolescents in Relation to Gender, Cognitive Skills, Soft Skills, and Executive Functions (April 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w25723. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3368009

James Andreoni (Contact Author)

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0508
United States

HOME PAGE: http://econ.ucsd.edu/~jandreon/

Amalia Di Girolamo

University of Birmingham

John A. List

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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

Claire Mackevicius

Northwestern University ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Anya Samek

Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR) ( email )

635 Downey Way
Los Angeles, CA 90089-3332
United States

University of Southern California - Department of Economics ( email )

3620 South Vermont Ave. Kaprielian (KAP) Hall, 300
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

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