Gender and Risk-Taking: Economics, Evidence, and Why the Answer Matters
By Julie A. Nelson
The belief that men and women have fundamentally distinct natures, resulting in divergent preferences and behaviours, is widespread. Recently, economists have also engaged in the search for gender differences, with a number claiming to find fundamental gender differences regarding risk-taking, altruism, and competition. In particular, the idea that "women are more risk-averse than men" has become accepted as a truism. But is it true? And what are its causes and consequences?
Gender and Risk Taking makes three contributions. First, it asks whether the belief that men and women have distinct risk preferences is backed up by high quality empirical evidence. The answer turns out to be "no." This leads to a second question: Why, then, does so much of the literature claim to find evidence of "difference"? This, it will be shown, can be attributed to biases arising from too-easy categorical thinking, widespread stereotyping, and a tendency to prefer results that are publishable and that fit one’s prior beliefs. Third, the book explores the economic implications of the conventional association of risk-taking with masculinity and risk-aversion with femininity. Not only fairness in employment, but also the health of the financial sector and national responses to climate change, this book argues, are being compromised.
This volume will be eye-opening for anyone interested in gender, decision-making, cognition, and/or risk, especially in areas relating to employment, finance, management, or public policy.