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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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Bibliographic Info

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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References

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  1. Tol, Richard S. J., 2008. "The Economic Impact of Climate Change," Papers WP255, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
  2. Dohmen Thomas & Falk Armin & Huffman David & Sunde Uwe & Schupp Jürgen & Wagner Gert, 2009. "Individual Risk Attitudes: Measurement, Determinants and Behavioral Consequences," ROA Research Memorandum 007, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
  3. Borghans, Lex & Golsteyn, Bart H.H. & Heckman, James J. & Meijers, Huub, 2009. "Gender Differences in Risk Aversion and Ambiguity Aversion," IZA Discussion Papers 3985, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. 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.
  5. Alison L. Booth & Patrick Nolen, 2009. "Gender Differences in Risk Behaviour: Does Nurture Matter?," CEPR Discussion Papers 601, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  6. Uri Gneezy & Kenneth Leonard & John List, 2009. "Gender differences in competition: Evidence from a matrilineal and a patriarchal society," Artefactual Field Experiments 00049, The Field Experiments Website.
  7. Adrian Bruhin & Helga Fehr-Duda & Thomas Epper, 2007. "Risk and Rationality: Uncovering Heterogeneity in Probability Distortion," SOI - Working Papers 0705, Socioeconomic Institute - University of Zurich, revised Jul 2007.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  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. Nelson, J.A., 1990. "Gender, Metaphor, And The Definition Of Economics," Papers 350, California Davis - Institute of Governmental Affairs.
  16. 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.
  17. Borghans Lex & Golsteyn Bart & Heckman James & Meijers Huub, 2009. "Gender Differences in Risk Aversion and Ambiguity Aversion," ROA Research Memorandum 005, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
  18. Nelson, J.A., 2013. "Ethics and the economist: What climate change demands of us," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 145-154.
  19. Daniela Beckmann & Lukas Menkhoff, 2008. "Will Women Be Women? Analyzing the Gender Difference among Financial Experts," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(3), pages 364-384, 08.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2002. "Sex Differences and Statistical Stereotyping in Attitudes Toward Financial Risk," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-03, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  24. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2008. "Forecasting Risk Attitudes: An Experimental Study Using Actual and Forecast Gamble Choices," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-01, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
  28. 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).
  29. 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.
  30. 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.
  31. 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.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Julie Nelson, 2012. "Is Dismissing the Precautionary Principle the Manly Thing to Do? Gender and the Economics of Climate Change," INET Research Notes 13, Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET).
  2. Antonio FILIPPIN & Paolo CROSETTO, 2014. "A Reconsideration of Gender Differences in Risk Attitudes," Departmental Working Papers 2014-01, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.

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