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Gender Differences in Risk Aversion and Ambiguity Aversion

  • Lex Borghans
  • Bart H. H. Golsteyn
  • James J. Heckman
  • Huub Meijers

This paper demonstrates gender differences in risk aversion and ambiguity aversion. It also contributes to a growing literature relating economic preference parameters to psychological measures by asking whether variations in preference parameters among persons, and in particular across genders, can be accounted for by differences in personality traits and traits of cognition. Women are more risk-averse than men. Over an initial range, women require no further compensation for the introduction of ambiguity but men do. At greater levels of ambiguity, women have the same marginal distaste for increased ambiguity as men. Psychological variables account for some of the interpersonal variation in risk aversion. They explain none of the differences in ambiguity. (JEL: J24, D03, D80) (c) 2009 by the European Economic Association.

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Journal of the European Economic Association.

Volume (Year): 7 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2-3 (04-05)
Pages: 649-658

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:jeurec:v:7:y:2009:i:2-3:p:649-658
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  1. Dohmen, T.J. & Falk, A. & Huffman, D. & Sunde, U., 2009. "Are risk aversion and impatience related to cognitive ability?," Research Memorandum 040, Maastricht University, Maastricht Research School of Economics of Technology and Organization (METEOR).
  2. 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.
  3. Daniel J. Benjamin & Sebastian A. Brown & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2013. "Who Is ‘Behavioral’? Cognitive Ability And Anomalous Preferences," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(6), pages 1231-1255, December.
  4. Borghans, Lex & Duckworth, Angela Lee & Heckman, James J. & ter Weel, Bas, 2008. "The Economics and Psychology of Personality Traits," IZA Discussion Papers 3333, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Daniel Ellsberg, 1961. "Risk, Ambiguity, and the Savage Axioms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(4), pages 643-669.
  6. Lars Peter Hansen, 2007. "Beliefs, Doubts and Learning: Valuing Economic Risk," NBER Working Papers 12948, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Julie R. Agnew & Lisa R. Anderson & Jeffrey R. Gerlach & Lisa R. Szykman, 2008. "Who Chooses Annuities? An Experimental Investigation of the Role of Gender, Framing, and Defaults," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 418-22, May.
  8. 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.
  9. David K. Backus & Bryan R. Routledge & Stanley E. Zin, 2005. "Exotic Preferences for Macroeconomists," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2004, Volume 19, pages 319-414 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Halevy, Yoram, 2005. "Ellsberg Revisited: an Experimental Study," Microeconomics.ca working papers halevy-05-07-26-11-51-13, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 25 Feb 2014.
  11. 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.
  12. Lars Peter Hansen, 2007. "Beliefs, Doubts and Learning: Valuing Macroeconomic Risk," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 1-30, May.
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