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Gender differences in risk attitudes: Field experiments on the matrilineal Mosuo and the patriarchal Yi


  • Gong, Binglin
  • Yang, Chun-Lei


We conduct experiments on two different risk tasks with subjects from two neighboring ethnic groups, the matrilineal Mosuo and the patriarchal Yi in China. Women are more risk averse than men at both tasks within both ethnic groups. However, the gender gap is smaller in the Mosuo. Regressions show that socio-economic factors such as family size, family head, education, age, and income also have significant effects on subject's risk choices.

Suggested Citation

  • Gong, Binglin & Yang, Chun-Lei, 2012. "Gender differences in risk attitudes: Field experiments on the matrilineal Mosuo and the patriarchal Yi," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 59-65.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:83:y:2012:i:1:p:59-65
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2011.06.010

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Joseph Henrich & Richard McElreath, 2002. "Are peasants risk-averse decision makers?," Artefactual Field Experiments 00066, The Field Experiments Website.
    2. Uri Gneezy & Jan Potters, 1997. "An Experiment on Risk Taking and Evaluation Periods," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 631-645.
    3. Uri Gneezy & Kenneth L. Leonard & John A. List, 2009. "Gender Differences in Competition: Evidence From a Matrilineal and a Patriarchal Society," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(5), pages 1637-1664, September.
    4. Cárdenas, Juan-Camilo & Dreber, Anna & von Essen, Emma & Ranehill, Eva, 2012. "Gender differences in competitiveness and risk taking: Comparing children in Colombia and Sweden," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 11-23.
    5. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2007. "Do Women Shy Away From Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1067-1101.
    6. 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.
    7. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 2008. "Men, Women and Risk Aversion: Experimental Evidence," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
    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. Rachel Croson & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Gender Differences in Preferences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(2), pages 448-474, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Antonio Filippin & Paolo Crosetto, 2016. "A Reconsideration of Gender Differences in Risk Attitudes," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 62(11), pages 3138-3160, November.
    2. 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).
    3. Zhang, Y. Jane, 2013. "Culture and the Gender Gap in Competitive Inclination: Evidence from the Communist Experiment in China," MPRA Paper 47356, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. van Damme, Eric & Binmore, Kenneth G. & Roth, Alvin E. & Samuelson, Larry & Winter, Eyal & Bolton, Gary E. & Ockenfels, Axel & Dufwenberg, Martin & Kirchsteiger, Georg & Gneezy, Uri & Kocher, Martin G, 2014. "How Werner Güth's ultimatum game shaped our understanding of social behavior," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 292-318.
    5. Qian, Xianhang & Zhang, Guangli & Liu, Haiming, 2015. "Officials on boards and the prudential behavior of banks: Evidence from China's city commercial banks," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 84-96.
    6. Jetter, Michael & Walker, Jay K., 2017. "Gender Differences in Competitiveness and Risk-Taking among Children, Teenagers, and College Students: Evidence from Jeopardy!," IZA Discussion Papers 11201, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Giuliano, Paola, 2017. "Gender: An Historical Perspective," CEPR Discussion Papers 12183, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Hiller, Victor & Baudin, Thomas, 2016. "Cultural transmission and the evolution of gender roles," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 8-23.
    9. Säve Söderberg, Jenny & Sjögren Lindquist, Gabriella, 2014. "Children do not behave like adults: Gender gaps in performance and risk taking," Working Paper Series 7/2013, Stockholm University, Swedish Institute for Social Research.
    10. Migheli, Matteo, 2015. "Gender at work: Incentives and self-sorting," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 10-18.
    11. Anna Dreber & Emma Essen & Eva Ranehill, 2014. "Gender and competition in adolescence: task matters," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 17(1), pages 154-172, March.
    12. Banerjee, Debosree, 2014. "Ethnicity and Gender Differences in Risk, Ambiguity Attitude," Discussion Papers 180978, Georg-August-Universitaet Goettingen, GlobalFood, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development.
    13. Pondorfer, Andreas & Omar Mahmoud, Toman & Rehdanz, Katrin & Schmidt, Ulrich, 2014. "Gender differences in risk preferences and stereotypes: Experimental evidence from a matrilineal and a patrilineal society," Kiel Working Papers 1957, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    14. Charness, Gary & Viceisza, Angelino, 2011. "Comprehension and risk elicitation in the field: Evidence from rural Senegal," IFPRI discussion papers 1135, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    15. Asiedu, Edward & Ibanez, Marcela, 2014. "The weaker sex? Gender differences in punishment across Matrilineal and Patriarchal Societies," Discussion Papers 165743, Georg-August-Universitaet Goettingen, GlobalFood, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development.
    16. Jenny Säve-Söderbergh & Gabriella Sjögren Lindquist, 2014. "Children Do Not Behave Like Adults: Gender Gaps in Performance and Risk Taking within a Random Social Context in the High-Stakes Game Shows Jeopardy and Junior Jeopardy," CESifo Working Paper Series 4595, CESifo Group Munich.
    17. Hoffman, Mitchell & Morgan, John, 2015. "Who's naughty? Who's nice? Experiments on whether pro-social workers are selected out of cutthroat business environments," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 173-187.
    18. Sundar, B. & Virmani, Vineet, 2013. "Attitudes towards Risk of Forest Dependent Communities - Evidence from Andhra Pradesh," IIMA Working Papers WP2013-12-01, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Research and Publication Department.

    More about this item


    Risk attitude; Gender difference; Matrilineal society; Patriarchal society; Field experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination


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