No Link Between Sex Hormones Around Birth and Economic Preferences

70 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2020

See all articles by Boris van Leeuwen

Boris van Leeuwen

Tilburg University - Department of Economics

Paul Smeets

Maastricht University

Jeanne Bovet

Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution

Gideon Nave

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School

Jonathan Stieglitz

Independent

Andrew Whitehouse

Perth Children’s Hospital - Telethon Kids Institute

Date Written: April 1, 2020

Abstract

Economic preferences have a hormonal basis via exposure to testosterone and estrogen around birth, according to previous research. However, these studies mostly rely on 2D:4D digit ratios, a purported proxy for prenatal testosterone exposure, whose validity has recently been questioned. Here, we use direct measures of sex hormones (i.e. testosterone and estrogen) from umbilical cord blood at birth and investigate their association with later-life measures of economic preferences (i.e. risk preferences, competitiveness preferences, time preferences and social preferences) in a longitudinal cohort of Australian young adults (Raine Study Gen2) using incentivized experiments (n = 217). We find no evidence for an association between neonatal sex hormones and economic preferences. We also estimate precise null effects for the relationship between 2D:4D digit ratios and economic preferences (n = 597).

Keywords: hormones, economic preferences, testosterone, developmental origins

JEL Classification: D01, D04, C91, D87, D90

Suggested Citation

van Leeuwen, Boris and Smeets, Paul and Bovet, Jeanne and Nave, Gideon and Stieglitz, Jonathan and Whitehouse, Andrew, No Link Between Sex Hormones Around Birth and Economic Preferences (April 1, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3565809 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3565809

Boris Van Leeuwen (Contact Author)

Tilburg University - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE
Netherlands

Paul Smeets

Maastricht University ( email )

P.O. Box 616
Maastricht, 6200MD
Netherlands
+31433883643 (Phone)

Jeanne Bovet

Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution ( email )

Montpellier
France

Gideon Nave

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

3730 Walnut St
JMHH Suite 700
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

Jonathan Stieglitz

Independent ( email )

Andrew Whitehouse

Perth Children’s Hospital - Telethon Kids Institute

100 Roberts Rd
Subiaco, Western Australia
Australia

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