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Gender Differences in Risk Behaviour: Does Nurture Matter?

Author

Listed:
  • Booth, Alison L.

    () (Australian National University)

  • Nolen, Patrick J.

    () (University of Essex)

Abstract

Women and men may differ in their propensity to choose a risky outcome because of innate preferences or because their innate preferences are modified by pressure to conform to gender-stereotypes. Single-sex environments are likely to modify students’ risk-taking preferences in economically important ways. To test this, our controlled experiment gave subjects an opportunity to choose a risky outcome ? a real-stakes gamble with a higher expected monetary value than the alternative outcome with a certain payoff ? and in which the sensitivity of observed risk choices to environmental factors could be explored. The results show that girls from single-sex schools are as likely to choose the real-stakes gamble as much as boys from either coed or single sex schools, and more likely than coed girls. Moreover, gender differences in preferences for risk-taking are sensitive to the gender mix of the experimental group, with girls being more likely to choose risky outcomes when assigned to all-girl groups. This suggests that observed gender differences in behaviour under uncertainty found in previous studies might reflect social learning rather than inherent gender traits.

Suggested Citation

  • 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).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4026
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    gender identity; controlled experiment; risk aversion; risk attitudes;

    JEL classification:

    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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