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A Sex Difference in Risk Taking and Promotions in Hierarchies: Evidence from Females in Legislatures


  • Dino Falaschetti


Scotchmer showed how a sex difference in risk taking can cause promotional patterns to differ across sexes, even if discrimination is absent and ability is identically distributed ex ante. In her model, (1) winner-take-all promotions favor risk-taking males, but (2) promoted females enjoy greater ability and (3) see this advantage depreciate with repeated play. I find persistent evidence for the first two implications in how the sex composition of national legislatures differs across electoral mechanisms (winner-take-all chambers employ a greater proportion of males) and in how reelection prospects for U.S. representatives differ by sex (females enjoy longer expected service in a winner-take-all chamber). Finally, while the data convey less information about the third implication, the results are difficult to rationalize in alternative models and can have important implications not only for affirmative action doctrines but also for corporate fiduciary duties.

Suggested Citation

  • Dino Falaschetti, 2012. "A Sex Difference in Risk Taking and Promotions in Hierarchies: Evidence from Females in Legislatures," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(3), pages 477-502.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/664687

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2004. "Constitutions and Economic Policy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(1), pages 75-98, Winter.
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    5. Dekel, Eddie & Scotchmer, Suzanne, 1999. "On the Evolution of Attitudes towards Risk in Winner-Take-All Games," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 125-143, July.
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    7. Milyo, Jeffrey & Schosberg, Samantha, 2000. "Gender Bias and Selection Bias in House Elections," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 105(1-2), pages 41-59, October.
    8. Dwyer, Peggy D. & Gilkeson, James H. & List, John A., 2002. "Gender differences in revealed risk taking: evidence from mutual fund investors," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 151-158, July.
    9. Kenneth J. Arrow, 1950. "A Difficulty in the Concept of Social Welfare," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58, pages 328-328.
    10. 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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