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Individual Risk Attitudes: New Evidence from a Large, Representative, Experimentally-Validated Survey

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  • Thomas Dohmen

    ()
    (Institute for the Study of Labor, IZA)

  • Armin Falk

    ()
    (IZA and University of Bonn)

  • David Huffman

    ()
    (Institute for the Study of Labor, IZA)

  • Uwe Sunde

    ()
    (IZA and University of Bonn)

  • Juergen Schupp

    ()
    (German Institute for Economic Research, DIW)

  • Gert Wagner

    ()
    (Berlin University of Technology, DIW, and Cornell University)

Abstract

This paper presents new evidence on the distribution of risk attitudes in the population, using a novel set of survey questions and a representative sample of roughly 22,000 individuals living in Germany. Using a question that asks about willingness to take risks in general, on an 11-point scale, we find evidence of heterogeneity across individuals, and show that willingness to take risks is negatively related to age and being female, and positively related to height and parental education. We test the behavioral relevance of this survey measure by conducting a complementary field experiment, based on a representative sample of 450 subjects, and find that the general risk question is a good predictor of actual risk-taking behavior. We then use a more standard lottery question to measure risk preferences in our sample of 22,000, and find similar results regarding heterogeneity and determinants of risk preferences, compared to the general risk question. The lottery question also makes it possible to estimate the coefficient of relative risk aversion for each individual in the sample. Using five questions about willingness to take risks in specific domains - car driving, financial matters, sports and leisure, career, and health - the paper also studies the impact of context on risk attitudes, finding a strong but imperfect correlation across contexts. Using data on a collection of risky behaviors from different contexts, including traffic offenses, portfolio choice, smoking, occupational choice, participation in sports, and migration, the paper compares the predictive power of all of the risk measures. Strikingly, the general risk question predicts all behaviors whereas the standard lottery measure does not. The best predictor for any specific behavior is typically the corresponding context-specific measure.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The Field Experiments Website in its series Working Papers with number 2096.

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Length: 58 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:feb:wpaper:2096

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Web page: http://www.fieldexperiments.com

Related research

Keywords: Risk Preferences; Experimental Validation; Field Experiment; SOEP; Gender Differences; Context; Age; Height; Subjective Well-Being; Migration; Occupational Choice; Health;

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References

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