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Gender and Risk Taking in the Classroom

  • Justine Burns

    (School of Economics, University of Cape Town)

  • Simon Halliday
  • Malcolm Keswell

We examine whether differences in risk preferences explain gender differentials in test scores amongst a large class of undergraduate microeconomics students, where students were evaluated using multiple choice questions. In each of five class tests, the negative penalty associated with an incorrect answer was randomly varied across questions. We show that female students exhibit lower risk propensities on average, and that they are more responsive than males to an increase in the penalty for an incorrect answer. Controlling for di erences in risk preferences, we show that the gender differential in relation to answering any given question correctly reduces by a third, and that the gender differential in overall test scores becomes statistically insigni cant. This result is robust to a variety of distributional assumptions.

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File URL: http://opensaldru.uct.ac.za/bitstream/handle/11090/178/2012_87.pdf?sequence=1
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Paper provided by Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town in its series SALDRU Working Papers with number 87.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:ldr:wpaper:87
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  1. Alison L. Booth & Patrick Nolen, 2009. "Gender Differences in Risk Behaviour: Does Nurture Matter?," CEPR Discussion Papers 601, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  2. Booth, Alison L. & Nolen, Patrick J., 2009. "Choosing to Compete: How Different Are Girls and Boys?," IZA Discussion Papers 4027, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. 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.
  4. Susan Pozo & Charles A. Stull, 2006. "Requiring a Math Skills Unit: Results of a Randomized Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 437-441, May.
  5. 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.
  6. Stephen Buckles & John J. Siegfried, 2006. "Using Multiple-Choice Questions to Evaluate In-Depth Learning of Economics," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(1), pages 48-57, January.
  7. Kenneth G. Elzinga & Daniel O. Melaugh, 2009. "35,000 Principles of Economics Students: Some Lessons Learned," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 76(1), pages 32-46, July.
  8. Leonard Smith & Lawrence Edwards, 2007. "A Multivariate Evaluation Of Mainstream And Academic Development Courses In First-Year Microeconomics," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 75(1), pages 99-117, 03.
  9. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2008. "Sex and Risk: Experimental Evidence," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-09, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  10. L Edwards, 2000. "An Econometric Evaluation of Academic Development Programmes in Economics," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 68(3), pages 204-215, 09.
  11. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2008. "Forecasting Risk Attitudes: An Experimental Study Using Actual and Forecast Gamble Choices," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-01, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  12. Charles L. Ballard & Marianne F. Johnson, 2004. "Basic Math Skills and Performance in an Introductory Economics Class," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(1), pages 3-23, January.
  13. Mary O. Borg & Harriet A. Stranahan, 2002. "Personality Type and Student Performance in Upper-Level Economics Courses: The Importance of Race and Gender," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 33(1), pages 3-14, January.
  14. Alex Van der merwe, 2006. "Identifying Some Constraints In First Year Economics Teaching And Learning At A Typical South African University Of Technology," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 74(1), pages 150-159, 03.
  15. Bajtelsmit, Vickie L. & Bernasek, Alexandra & Jianakoplos, Nancy A., 1999. "Gender differences in defined contribution pension decisions," Financial Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 1-10.
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