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Gender and cooperative behavior: economic man rides alone


  • Stephanie Seguino
  • Thomas Stevens
  • Mark Lutz


Neoclassical theory posits an undifferentiated economic agent whose self-interested behavior promotes a tendency to free ride in the provision of public goods. Challenges to this rigid portrayal of human character have come from a variety of directions. A dozen years ago Gerald Marwell and Ruth Ames conducted experiments which showed that (virtually all male) economic graduate students tended to free ride significantly more than a mixed population of high school students. In this paper, we argue that gender may also influence the degree to which humans act in a self-interested versus cooperative manner. We test this hypothesis by replicating the Marwell and Ames experiments using a similar, albeit simplified, methodology, with a sample of only college students separated into economists and non-economists. After controlling for group size, gender, and exposure to economics courses, we find that a key factor affecting the level of cooperation is gender.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephanie Seguino & Thomas Stevens & Mark Lutz, 1996. "Gender and cooperative behavior: economic man rides alone," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 2(1), pages 1-21.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:femeco:v:2:y:1996:i:1:p:1-21 DOI: 10.1080/738552683

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    Cited by:

    1. Bertrand, Marianne, 2011. "New Perspectives on Gender," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
    2. Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, "undated". "Political Economists are Neither Selfish nor Indoctrinated," IEW - Working Papers 069, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    3. repec:gam:jgames:v:8:y:2017:i:3:p:26-:d:102964 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. García-Gallego, Aurora & Georgantzís, Nikolaos & Jaramillo-Gutiérrez, Ainhoa, 2012. "Gender differences in ultimatum games: Despite rather than due to risk attitudes," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 42-49.
    5. Furtner, Nadja C. & Kocher, Martin G. & Martinsson, Peter & Matzat, Dominik & Wollbrant, Conny, 2016. "Gender and cooperative preferences on five continents," Discussion Papers in Economics 30226, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    6. Drouvelis, Michalis & Grosskopf, Brit, 2016. "The effects of induced emotions on pro-social behaviour," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 1-8.
    7. M Perugini & J H W Tan & D J Zizzo, 2010. "Which is the More Predictable Gender? Public Good Contribution and Personality," Economic Issues Journal Articles, Economic Issues, vol. 15(1), pages 83-110, March.
    8. Rachel Croson & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Gender Differences in Preferences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(2), pages 448-474, June.
    9. Bussmann, Margit, 2009. "The Effect of Trade Openness on Women's Welfare and Work Life," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 37(6), pages 1027-1038, June.
    10. Ainhoa Jaramillo Gutiérrez & Nikolaos Georgantzis & Aurora García Gallego & Miguel Ginés Vilar, 2007. "Cultural And Risk-Related Determinants Of Gender Differences In Ultimatum Bargaining," Working Papers. Serie AD 2007-08, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).
    11. Lourdes Beneria, 1999. "Globalization, Gender And The Davos Man," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(3), pages 61-83.
    12. Linda Kamas & Sandy Baum & Anne Preston, 2005. "Altruistic Responses of the September 11 Terrorist Attacks: Some Evidence from Dictator Games," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 31(4), pages 551-562, Fall.
    13. repec:rdg:wpaper:em-dp2011-01 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Gillian Hewitson, 2001. "A Survey of Feminist Economics," Working Papers 2001.01, School of Economics, La Trobe University.
    15. Brown, Kelly M. & Taylor, Laura O., 2000. "Do as you say, say as you do: evidence on gender differences in actual and stated contributions to public goods," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 127-139, September.
    16. Stephen Meier & Bruno Frey, 2004. "Do Business Students Make Good Citizens?," International Journal of the Economics of Business, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(2), pages 141-163.
    17. repec:sgh:gosnar:y:2017:i:6:p:57-77 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Wilfred Dolfsma, 2000. "Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy, edited by Charles K. Wilber," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(2), pages 153-157.
    19. Lisa Anderson & Francis DiTraglia & Jeffrey Gerlach, 2011. "Measuring altruism in a public goods experiment: a comparison of U.S. and Czech subjects," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 14(3), pages 426-437, September.
    20. David Zetland & Marina Della Giusta, 2011. "Focal Points, Gender Norms and Reciprocation in Public Good Games," Economics & Management Discussion Papers em-dp2011-01, Henley Business School, Reading University.
    21. Bram Cadsby, C. & Maynes, Elizabeth, 2005. "Gender, risk aversion, and the drawing power of equilibrium in an experimental corporate takeover game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 39-59, January.
    22. L. Becchetti & V. Pelligra & F. Salustri & A. Vásquez, 2016. "Gender differences in Socially Responsible Consumption. An Experimental Investigation," Working Paper CRENoS 201603, Centre for North South Economic Research, University of Cagliari and Sassari, Sardinia.
    23. Hussey, Andrew, 2011. "The effect of ethics on labor market success: Evidence from MBAs," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 168-180.


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