Gender Differences in the Equity-Efficiency Trade-Off

14 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2019 Last revised: 5 Jun 2019

Date Written: May 10, 2019


Gender differences in human behaviour have attracted generations of social scientists, who have explored whether males and females act differently in domains involving competition, risk taking, cooperation, altruism, honesty, as well as many others. Yet, little is known about gender differences in the equity-efficiency trade-off. It has been suggested that females are more equitable than males, but the empirical evidence is weak and inconclusive. This gap is particularly important, because people in power of redistributing resources often face a conflict between equity and efficiency, to the point that this trade-off has been named as “the central problem in distributive justice”. The recently introduced Trade-Off Game (TOG) – in which a decision-maker has to unilaterally choose between being equitable or being efficient – offers a unique opportunity to fill this gap. To this end, I analyse gender differences on a large dataset including all N=5,056 TOG decisions collected by my research group since we introduced this game. The results show that females prefer equity over efficiency to a greater extent than males do. These findings suggest that males and females have different preferences for resource distribution, and point to new avenues for future research.

Keywords: gender differences, equity, efficiency, social preferences, behavioural economics

JEL Classification: C70, C79, C90, C91, C92, D64, D70, D71, H41

Suggested Citation

Capraro, Valerio, Gender Differences in the Equity-Efficiency Trade-Off (May 10, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Valerio Capraro (Contact Author)

Middlesex University ( email )

The Burroughs
London, NW4 4BT
United Kingdom

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