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Gender Differences in Risk Aversion and Ambiguity Aversion

  • Lex Borghans
  • Bart H.H. Golsteyn
  • James J. Heckman
  • Huub Meijers

This paper demonstrates gender differences in risk aversion and ambiguity aversion. It also contributes to a growing literature relating economic preference parameters to psychological measures by asking whether variations in preference parameters among persons, and in particular across genders, can be accounted for by differences in personality traits and traits of cognition. Women are more risk averse than men. Over an initial range, women require no further compensation for the introduction of ambiguity but men do. At greater levels of ambiguity, women have the same marginal distaste for increased ambiguity as men. Psychological variables account for some of the interpersonal variation in risk aversion. They explain none of the differences in ambiguity.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14713.

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Date of creation: Feb 2009
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Lex Borghans & Bart H. H. Golsteyn & James J. Heckman & Huub Meijers, 2009. "Gender Differences in Risk Aversion and Ambiguity Aversion," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(2-3), pages 649-658, 04-05.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14713
Note: LS
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  1. Dohmen, Thomas J & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David & Sunde, Uwe, 2008. "Are Risk Aversion and Impatience Related to Cognitive Ability?," CEPR Discussion Papers 6852, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. 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.
  3. David Backus & Bryan Routledge & Stanley Zin, 2004. "Exotic Preferences for Macroeconomists," NBER Working Papers 10597, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Daniel J. Benjamin & Sebastian A. Brown & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2013. "Who Is ‘Behavioral’? Cognitive Ability And Anomalous Preferences," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(6), pages 1231-1255, December.
  5. Borghans, Lex & Duckworth, Angela Lee & Heckman, James J. & ter Weel, Bas, 2008. "The Economics and Psychology of Personality Traits," IZA Discussion Papers 3333, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Lars Peter Hansen, 2007. "Beliefs, Doubts and Learning: Valuing Macroeconomic Risk," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 1-30, May.
  9. Yoram Halevy, 2007. "Ellsberg Revisited: An Experimental Study," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(2), pages 503-536, 03.
  10. Julie R. Agnew & Lisa R. Anderson & Jeffrey R. Gerlach & Lisa R. Szykman, 2008. "Who Chooses Annuities? An Experimental Investigation of the Role of Gender, Framing, and Defaults," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 418-22, May.
  11. Lars Peter Hansen, 2007. "Beliefs, Doubts and Learning: Valuing Economic Risk," NBER Working Papers 12948, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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