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

  • Booth, Alison L
  • Cardona Sosa, Lina
  • Nolen, Patrick

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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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8690.

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Date of creation: Dec 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8690
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  1. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
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  3. Wiji Arulampalam & Alison Booth & Mark L. Bryan, 2006. "Is There a Glass Ceiling over Europe? Exploring the Gender Pay Gap across the Wages Distribution," CEPR Discussion Papers 510, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  4. Dohmen Thomas & Falk Armin & Huffman David & Sunde Uwe, 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).
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  7. Blau, Francine D. & Kahn, Lawrence M., 2006. "The U.S. Gender Pay Gap in the 1990s: Slowing Convergence," IZA Discussion Papers 2176, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Nabanita Datta Gupta & Anders Poulsen & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2005. "Male and Female Competitive Behavior: Experimental," Post-Print halshs-00175039, HAL.
  9. Elisabet Rutstrom & Glenn Harrison & Morten Lau, 2004. "Estimating risk attitudes in denmark: A field experiment," Artefactual Field Experiments 00059, The Field Experiments Website.
  10. 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.
  11. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2007. "Do Women Shy Away from Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1067-1101, 08.
  12. Uri Gneezy & John A. List, 2006. "Putting Behavioral Economics to Work: Testing for Gift Exchange in Labor Markets Using Field Experiments," NBER Working Papers 12063, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Booth, Alison L & Nolen, Patrick, 2012. "Salience, Risky Choices and Gender," CEPR Discussion Papers 8868, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  14. Steffen Andersen & Glenn Harrison & Morten Lau & E. Rutström, 2009. "Elicitation using multiple price list formats," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 365-366, September.
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  16. Uri Gneezy & Kenneth L. Leonard & John A. List, 2008. "Gender Differences in Competition: Evidence from a Matrilineal and a Patriarchal Society," NBER Working Papers 13727, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Marie-Claire Villeval & Nabanita Datta Gupta & Anders Poulsen, 2005. "Male and Female Competitive Behavior - Experimental Evidence," Working Papers 0512, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique (GATE), Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Université Lyon 2, Ecole Normale Supérieure.
  18. William T. Harbaugh & Kate Krause & Lise Vesterlund, 1999. "Risk attitudes of children and adults: choices over small and large probability gains and losses," University of Oregon Economics Department Working Papers 1999-2, University of Oregon Economics Department.
  19. 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).
  20. Bertrand, Marianne, 2011. "New Perspectives on Gender," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
  21. Aldo Rustichini & Uri Gneezy, 2004. "Gender and competition at a young age," Framed Field Experiments 00151, The Field Experiments Website.
  22. Marianne Bertrand & Kevin Hallock, 1999. "The Gender Gap in Top Corporate Jobs," Working Papers 805, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  23. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2010. "An Empirical Analysis of the Gender Gap in Mathematics," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 210-40, April.
  24. 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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  26. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 2008. "Men, Women and Risk Aversion: Experimental Evidence," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
  27. 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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