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Are Attitudes Towards Economic Risk Heritable? Analyses Using the Australian Twin Study of Gambling


  • Le, Anh T.

    () (Curtin University)

  • Miller, Paul W.

    (Curtin University)

  • Slutske, Wendy S.

    () (University of Missouri-Columbia)

  • Martin, Nicholas G.

    () (Queensland Institute of Medical Research)


This study employs multiple regression models based on DeFries and Fulker (1985), and a large sample of twins, to assess heritability in attitudes towards economic risk, and the extent to which this heritability differs between males and females. Consistent with Cesarini, Dawes, Johannesson, Lichtenstein and Wallace (2009), it is found that attitudes towards risk are moderately heritable, with about 20 percent of the variation in these attitudes across individuals being linked to genetic differences. This value is less than one-half the estimates reported by Zyphur, Narayanan, Arvey and Alexander (2009) and Zhong, Chew, Set, Zhang, Xue, Sham, Ebstein and Israel (2009). While females are more risk averse than males, there is no evidence that heritability in attitudes towards risk differs between males and females. Even though heritability is shown to be important to economic risk taking, the analyses suggest that multivariate studies of the determinants of attitudes towards risk which to not take heritability into consideration still provide reliable estimates of the partial effects of other key variables, such as gender and educational attainment.

Suggested Citation

  • Le, Anh T. & Miller, Paul W. & Slutske, Wendy S. & Martin, Nicholas G., 2010. "Are Attitudes Towards Economic Risk Heritable? Analyses Using the Australian Twin Study of Gambling," IZA Discussion Papers 4859, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4859

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dorothe Bonjour & Lynn F. Cherkas & Jonathan E. Haskel & Denise D. Hawkes & Tim D. Spector, 2003. "Returns to Education: Evidence from U.K. Twins," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1799-1812, December.
    2. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2002. "Sex Differences and Statistical Stereotyping in Attitudes Toward Financial Risk," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-03, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    3. Miller, Paul & Mulvey, Charles & Martin, Nick, 1996. "Multiple Regression Analysis of the Occupational Status of Twins: A Comparison of Economic and Behavioural Genetics Models," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 58(2), pages 227-239, May.
    4. Armin Falk & James J. Heckman, 2009. "Lab Experiments are a Major Source of Knowledge in the Social Sciences," Working Papers 200935, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
    5. Miller, Paul W & Mulvey, Charles & Martin, Nick, 1995. "What Do Twins Studies Reveal about the Economic Returns to Education? A Comparison of Australian and U.S. Findings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 586-599, June.
    6. Miller, Paul & Mulvey, Charles & Martin, Nick, 2005. "Birth weight and schooling and earnings: estimates from a sample of twins," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 86(3), pages 387-392, March.
    7. 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.
    8. David Cesarini & Christopher T. Dawes & Magnus Johannesson & Paul Lichtenstein & Björn Wallace, 2009. "Genetic Variation in Preferences for Giving and Risk Taking," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(2), pages 809-842.
    9. Le, Anh T. & Miller, Paul W. & Heath, Andrew C. & Martin, Nick, 2005. "Early childhood behaviours, schooling and labour market outcomes: estimates from a sample of twins," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 1-17, February.
    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. Orley Ashenfelter & Cecilia Rouse, 1998. "Income, Schooling, and Ability: Evidence from a New Sample of Identical Twins," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(1), pages 253-284.
    12. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde & Juergen Schupp & Gert Wagner, 2005. "Individual Risk Attitudes: New Evidence from a Large, Representative, Experimentally-Validated Survey," Working Papers 2096, The Field Experiments Website.
    13. Holger Bonin & Amelie Constant & Konstantinos Tatsiramos & Klaus Zimmermann, 2009. "Native-migrant differences in risk attitudes," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(15), pages 1581-1586.
    14. Miller, Paul & Mulvey, Charles & Martin, Nick, 2006. "The return to schooling: Estimates from a sample of young Australian twins," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(5), pages 571-587, October.
    15. Ashenfelter, Orley & Krueger, Alan B, 1994. "Estimates of the Economic Returns to Schooling from a New Sample of Twins," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1157-1173, December.
    16. Xiaohao Ding & Joop Hartog & Yuze Sun, 2010. "Can we measure Individual Risk Attitudes in a Survey?," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 10-027/3, Tinbergen Institute.
    17. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Necker, Sarah & Voskort, Andrea, 2014. "Intergenerational transmission of risk attitudes – A revealed preference approach," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 66-89.
    2. Le, Anh T. & Miller, Paul W. & Slutske, Wendy S. & Martin, Nicholas G., 2011. "Attitudes towards economic risk and the gender pay gap," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 555-561, August.

    More about this item


    risk; heritability; gender;

    JEL classification:

    • G00 - Financial Economics - - General - - - General
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General

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