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Gender and Social Preferences in the US: An Experimental Study


  • Linda Kamas
  • Anne Preston


This contribution provides evidence that social preferences differ by gender among United States college students. Tracking within-person choices over ten dictator exercises in which individuals choose one of three allocations of money between themselves and two other participants, this study precisely maps social preference types and identifies consistency of preferences within groups of roughly two-thirds of participants. Contrary to previous studies that identify a dominant social preference, this study' rigorous identification system reveals that other-regarding individuals are heterogeneous and almost evenly split between inequity aversion and social surplus maximization. But, even among individuals raised in a culture that stresses equal opportunity, there are gender differences. Women are substantially more likely than men to be inequity averters and less likely to be social surplus maximizers. However, a large majority of participants, both men and women, choose allocations consistent with compassion for the least well off.

Suggested Citation

  • Linda Kamas & Anne Preston, 2012. "Gender and Social Preferences in the US: An Experimental Study," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(1), pages 135-160, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:femeco:v:18:y:2012:i:1:p:135-160
    DOI: 10.1080/13545701.2012.657662

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jeanette Brosig & Thomas Riechmann & Joachim Weimann, 2007. "Selfish in the end? An investigation of consistency and stability of individual behaviour," FEMM Working Papers 07005, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Faculty of Economics and Management.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kamas, Linda & Preston, Anne, 2016. "Are we underestimating inequality aversion? Comparing recruited and classroom subjects," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 147(C), pages 157-159.
    2. Muriel Niederle, 2014. "Gender," NBER Working Papers 20788, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Kamas, Linda & Preston, Anne, 2015. "Can social preferences explain gender differences in economic behavior?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 525-539.

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