Gender-Inclusive Language and Economic Decision-Making

101 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2023

See all articles by Loukas Balafoutas

Loukas Balafoutas

University of Innsbruck

Helena Fornwagner

University of Exeter Business School - Department of Economics

Emily Hauser

University of Exeter

Oliver Hauser

University of Exeter Business School - Department of Economics

Date Written: April 7, 2023

Abstract

Providing inclusive environments has become a primary tenet of modern societies. One attempt at inclusivity has been through the use of gender-inclusive language (GIL), yet little is known about its effects on relevant economic behaviors that could reduce important gender gaps in the labor market. GIL avoids the masculine "default" (common to many languages) by either explicitly mentioning both masculine and feminine (pro)nouns or by replacing them with non-gendered (pro)nouns. Here we study the causal impact of GIL on economic behaviors in the laboratory, focusing on competitiveness and leadership. We study the effect of GIL in two different language samples—English and German—which differ, among other things, in the extent to which gender is embedded linguistically. We vary GIL in instructions to participants across three treatments (total N=2,205): a masculine baseline condition (often the status quo), a condition with feminine and masculine (pro)nouns, and a condition with non-gendered (pro)nouns. We find that female-identified and male-identified participants compete, stand for leadership, and vote on leader candidates similarly across all treatments, regardless of whether or not GIL is used, in either language. Furthermore, we find no difference in female-identified and male-identified participants feeling more included in their group or, conversely, more entitled to compete or become a group leader in any of the treatments. In sum, there is a lack of support for GIL having short-term causal effects on competitive and leadership behaviors and inclusion attitudes. These findings offer practical guidance to policy-makers interested in such behaviors, and we conclude by encouraging further work on the effects of GIL on other economic and social behaviors that are less immediate and may emerge more gradually.

Keywords: Gender-inclusive language; gender equality; economic behavior; experiment

JEL Classification: C91, D64, D91, J16

Suggested Citation

Balafoutas, Loukas and Fornwagner, Helena and Hauser, Emily and Hauser, Oliver, Gender-Inclusive Language and Economic Decision-Making (April 7, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4411481 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4411481

Loukas Balafoutas

University of Innsbruck ( email )

Universitätsstraße 15
Innsbruck, Innsbruck 6020
Austria

Helena Fornwagner (Contact Author)

University of Exeter Business School - Department of Economics ( email )

Streatham Court
Exeter, EX4 4RJ
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.helenafornwagner.com

Emily Hauser

University of Exeter

Oliver Hauser

University of Exeter Business School - Department of Economics ( email )

Streatham Court
Exeter, EX4 4RJ
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.oliverhauser.org

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