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Are Women Really More Risk-Averse than Men?

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  • Julie A. Nelson

Abstract

While a substantial literature in economics and finance has concluded that women are more risk averse than men, this conclusion merits reconsideration. Drawing on literatures in statistics and cognitive science, this essay discusses the important difference between drawing conclusions based on statistical inference, which concerns aggregates such as mean scores, and generalization, which posits characteristics of individuals classified into kinds. To supplement findings of statistical significance, quantitative measures of substantive difference (Cohen's d) and overlap (the Index of Similarity) are computed from the data on men, women, and risk used in 28 published articles. The results are considerably more mixed and overlapping than might be expected. Paying attention to empirical evidence that challenges subjective cultural beliefs about sex and risk has implications for labor economics, finance, and the economics of climate change.

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Paper provided by GDAE, Tufts University in its series GDAE Working Papers with number 12-05.

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Date of creation: Sep 2012
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Handle: RePEc:dae:daepap:12-05

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  1. Lex Borghans & Bart H. H. Golsteyn & James J. Heckman & Huub Meijers, 2009. "Gender Differences in Risk Aversion and Ambiguity Aversion," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(2-3), pages 649-658, 04-05.
  2. Booth, Alison L. & Nolen, Patrick J., 2009. "Gender Differences in Risk Behaviour: Does Nurture Matter?," IZA Discussion Papers 4026, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  4. Jane Miller & Yana van der Meulen Rodgers, 2008. "Economic importance and statistical significance: Guidelines for communicating empirical research," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(2), pages 117-149.
  5. Uri Gneezy & Kenneth L. Leonard & John A. List, 2008. "Gender Differences in Competition: Evidence from a Matrilineal and a Patriarchal Society," NBER Working Papers 13727, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Dohmen, Thomas J. & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David & Sunde, Uwe & Schupp, Jürgen & Wagner, Gert G., 2009. "Individual risk attitudes: Measurement, determinants and behavioral consequences," Munich Reprints in Economics 20049, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  7. Joseph Henrich & Steve J. Heine & Ara Norenzayan, 2010. "The Weirdest People in the World?," Working Paper Series of the German Council for Social and Economic Data 139, German Council for Social and Economic Data (RatSWD).
  8. Renate Schubert, 1999. "Financial Decision-Making: Are Women Really More Risk-Averse?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 381-385, May.
  9. Meier-Pesti, Katja & Penz, Elfriede, 2008. "Sex or gender? Expanding the sex-based view by introducing masculinity and femininity as predictors of financial risk taking," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 180-196, April.
  10. Nelson, Julie A., 1992. "Gender, Metaphor, and the Definition of Economics," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(01), pages 103-125, April.
  11. Lex Borghans & Bart H.H. Golsteyn & James J. Heckman & Huub Meijers, 2009. "Gender Differences in Risk Aversion and Ambiguity," Working Papers 200903, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
  12. Tomomi Tanaka & Colin F. Camerer & Quang Nguyen, 2010. "Risk and Time Preferences: Linking Experimental and Household Survey Data from Vietnam," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 557-71, March.
  13. Brad M. Barber & Terrance Odean, 2001. "Boys Will Be Boys: Gender, Overconfidence, And Common Stock Investment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(1), pages 261-292, February.
  14. Sunden, Annika E & Surette, Brian J, 1998. "Gender Differences in the Allocation of Assets in Retirement Savings Plans," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 207-11, May.
  15. Helga Fehr-Duda & Manuele Gennaro & Renate Schubert, 2006. "Gender, Financial Risk, and Probability Weights," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 60(2), pages 283-313, 05.
  16. Tol, Richard S. J., 2008. "The Economic Impact of Climate Change," Papers WP255, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
  17. Stephen T. Ziliak & Deirdre N. McCloskey, 2004. "Size Matters: The Standard Error of Regressions in the American Economic Review," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 1(2), pages 331-358, August.
  18. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2008. "Forecasting Risk Attitudes: An Experimental Study Using Actual and Forecast Gamble Choices," Development Research Unit Working Paper Series archive-01, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  19. Ziliak, Stephen T. & McCloskey, Deirdre N., 2004. "Size matters: the standard error of regressions in the American Economic Review," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 33(5), pages 527-546, November.
  20. Randall, Alan, 2009. "We Already Have Risk Management - Do We Really Need the Precautionary Principle?," International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, now publishers, vol. 3(1), pages 39-74, August.
  21. Nelson, Julie A., 2009. "Between a rock and a soft place: Ecological and feminist economics in policy debates," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 1-8, November.
  22. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2002. "Sex Differences and Statistical Stereotyping in Attitudes Toward Financial Risk," Development Research Unit Working Paper Series archive-03, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  23. Kimmo Eriksson & Brent Simpson, 2010. "Emotional reactions to losing explain gender differences in entering a risky lottery," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 5(3), pages 159-163, June.
  24. Charles A. Holt & Susan K. Laury, 2002. "Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1644-1655, December.
  25. LINDA McDOWELL, 2010. "Capital Culture Revisited: Sex, Testosterone and the City," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(3), pages 652-658, 09.
  26. Hartog, Joop & Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada & Jonker, Nicole, 2002. "Linking Measured Risk Aversion to Individual Characteristics," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(1), pages 3-26.
  27. Powell, Melanie & Ansic, David, 1997. "Gender differences in risk behaviour in financial decision-making: An experimental analysis," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 18(6), pages 605-628, November.
  28. Adrian Bruhin & Helga Fehr-Duda & Thomas Epper, 2010. "Risk and Rationality: Uncovering Heterogeneity in Probability Distortion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(4), pages 1375-1412, 07.
  29. Barsky, Robert B, et al, 1997. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 537-79, May.
  30. Lindquist, Gabriella Sjögren & Säve-Söderbergh, Jenny, 2011. ""Girls will be Girls", especially among Boys: Risk-taking in the "Daily Double" on Jeopardy," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 112(2), pages 158-160, August.
  31. Nelson, J.A., 2013. "Ethics and the economist: What climate change demands of us," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 145-154.
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Cited by:
  1. Julie A. Nelson, 2012. "Is Dismissing the Precautionary Principle the Manly Thing to Do? Gender and the Economics of Climate Change," GDAE Working Papers 12-04, GDAE, Tufts University.
  2. Filippin, A. & Crosetto, P., 2014. "A reconsideration of gender differences in risk attitudes," Working Papers 2014-01, Grenoble Applied Economics Laboratory (GAEL).

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