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Are Women Really More Risk-Averse Than Men? A Re-Analysis Of The Literature Using Expanded Methods

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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 investigation. After briefly clarifying the difference between making generalizations about groups, on the one hand, and making valid inferences from samples, on the other, this essay suggests improvements to how economists communicate our research results. Supplementing findings of statistical significance with quantitative measures of both substantive difference (Cohen's d, a measure in common use in non-Economics literatures) and of substantive overlap (the Index of Similarity, newly proposed here) adds important nuance to the discussion of sex differences. These measures are computed from the data on men, women and risk used in 35 scholarly works from economics, finance and decision science. The results are considerably more mixed and overlapping than would commonly be inferred from the broad claims made in the literature, with standardized differences in means mostly amounting to considerably less than one standard deviation, and the degree of overlap between male and female distributions generally exceeding 80%. In addition, studies that look at contextual influences suggest that these contribute importantly to observations of differences both between and within the sexes.

Suggested Citation

  • Julie A. Nelson, 2015. "Are Women Really More Risk-Averse Than Men? A Re-Analysis Of The Literature Using Expanded Methods," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(3), pages 566-585, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jecsur:v:29:y:2015:i:3:p:566-585
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    Cited by:

    1. van Hoorn, André, 2018. "The use of identity primes to explain behavioral differences between groups: A methodological note," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 146-150.
    2. repec:aea:jeclit:v:55:y:2017:i:3:p:789-865 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Holden , Stein T. & Tilahun , Mesfin, 2018. "Gender Differences in Risk Tolerance, Trust and Trustworthiness: Are They Related?," CLTS Working Papers 3/18, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Centre for Land Tenure Studies.
    4. Bertrand Koebel & André Schmitt & Sandrine Spaeter, 2016. "DO SELF-THEORIES ON INTELLIGENCE EXPLAIN OVERCONFIDENCE AND RISK TAKING? A Field Experiment," Working Papers of BETA 2016-11, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
    5. Subha Mani & Saurabh Singhal & Smriti Sharma & Utteeyo Dasgupta, 2016. "Eliciting risk preferences: Firefighting in the field," WIDER Working Paper Series 047, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    6. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2017. "The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends, and Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 55(3), pages 789-865, September.
    7. Pierre-Richard Agénor, 2018. "A Theory of Social Norms, Women's Time Allocation, and Gender Inequality in the Process of Development," Centre for Growth and Business Cycle Research Discussion Paper Series 237, Economics, The Univeristy of Manchester.
    8. Brixiova, Zuzana & Kangoye, Thierry, 2016. "Start-Up Capital and Women's Entrepreneurship: Evidence from Swaziland," IZA Discussion Papers 10279, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Beblo Miriam, 2016. "Eswaran, Mukesh: Why Gender Matters in Economics, Winner of the 2015 PROSE Award in Textbook/Social Sciences," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 236(4), pages 529-531, August.
    10. Julie A. Nelson, 2016. "Male Is a Gender, Too: A Review of Why Gender Matters in Economics by Mukesh Eswaran," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(4), pages 1362-1376, December.
    11. Margarida Abreu & Victor Mendes, 2018. "Do Individual Investors Trade Differently in Different Markets?," Working Papers Department of Economics 2018/01, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics and Management, Department of Economics, Universidade de Lisboa.
    12. Bonnier, Evelina & Dreber, Anna & Hederos, Karin & Sandberg, Anna, 2018. "Undressed for Success? The Effects of Half-Naked Women on Economic Behavior," Working Paper Series 6/2018, Stockholm University, Swedish Institute for Social Research.

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