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Are Women Really More Risk-Averse than Men?

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  • Julie 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 Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) in its series INET Research Notes with number 12.

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Date of creation: 21 Sep 2012
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Handle: RePEc:thk:rnotes:12

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References

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Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
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  1. 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.
  2. Tol, Richard S. J., 2008. "The Economic Impact of Climate Change," Papers WP255, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
  3. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde & Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, 2011. "Individual Risk Attitudes: Measurement, Determinants, And Behavioral Consequences," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 522-550, 06.
  4. 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.
  5. Beckmann, Daniela & Menkhoff, Lukas, 2008. "Will Women Be Women? Analyzing the Gender Difference among Financial Experts," Hannover Economic Papers (HEP) dp-391, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät.
  6. 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.
  7. Nelson, Julie A., 1992. "Gender, Metaphor, and the Definition of Economics," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(01), pages 103-125, April.
  8. 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.
  9. Alison L. Booth & Patrick Nolen, 2012. "Gender differences in risk behaviour: does nurture matter?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 122(558), pages F56-F78, 02.
  10. Lex Borghans & Bart H.H. Golsteyn & James J. Heckman & Huub Meijers, 2009. "Gender Differences in Risk Aversion and Ambiguity Aversion," NBER Working Papers 14713, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. Nelson, J.A., 2013. "Ethics and the economist: What climate change demands of us," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 145-154.
  24. 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.
  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. 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.
  27. 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.
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. 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).
  31. 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.
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Cited by:
  1. 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.
  2. 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).

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