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Gender Differences in Risk Aversion: Do Single-Sex Environments Affect their Development?

  • Alison Booth
  • Lina Cardona Sosa
  • Patrick Nolen

Single-sex classes within coeducational environments are likely to modify students' risk-taking attitudes in economically important ways. To test this, we designed a controlled experiment using first year college students who made choices over real-stakes lotteries at two distinct dates. Students were randomly assigned to classes of three types: all female, all male, and coeducational. They were not allowed to change group subsequently. We found that women are less likely to make risky choices than men at both dates. However, after eight weeks in a single-sex environment, women were significantly more likely to choose the lottery than their counterparts in coeducational groups. These results are robust to the inclusion of controls for IQ and for personality type, as well as to a number of sensitivity tests. Our findings suggest that observed gender differences in behaviour under uncertainty found in previous studies might partly reflect social learning rather than inherent gender traits.

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File URL: https://www.cbe.anu.edu.au/researchpapers/cepr/DP654.pdf
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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 654.

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Date of creation: Dec 2011
Handle: RePEc:auu:dpaper:654
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  1. von Gaudecker, Martin & van Soest, Arthur & Wengström, Erik, 2008. "Selection and Mode Effects in Risk Preference Elicitation Experiments," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 08-46, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim;Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
  2. Booth, Alison L. & Nolen, Patrick J., 2009. "Gender Differences in Risk Behaviour: Does Nurture Matter?," IZA Discussion Papers 4026, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Rachel Croson & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Gender Differences in Preferences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(2), pages 448-74, June.
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  8. Wiji Arulampalam & Alison L. Booth & Mark L. Bryan, 2007. "Is There a Glass Ceiling over Europe? Exploring the Gender Pay Gap across the Wage Distribution," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 60(2), pages 163-186, January.
  9. Francine Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2006. "The US Gender Pay Gap in the 1990s: Slowing Convergence," Working Papers 887, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
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  18. Bertrand, Marianne, 2011. "New Perspectives on Gender," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
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  22. Nabanita Datta Gupta & Anders Poulsen & Marie Claire Villeval, 2005. "Male and Female Competitive Behavior: Experimental," Post-Print halshs-00175039, HAL.
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  25. Muriel Niederle & Alexandra H. Yestrumskas, 2008. "Gender Differences in Seeking Challenges: The Role of Institutions," NBER Working Papers 13922, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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