Saturday, December 10, 2011

Why can't a woman be more like a man? She can, if she avoids them

Gender Differences in Risk Aversion:
Do Single‐Sex Environments Affect their Development?

Alison Booth

Lina Cardona Sosa
and Patrick Nolen
University of Essex, 
Australian National University

November 2011


Single‐sex classes within coeducational environments are likely to modify students' risk‐taking attitudes
in economically important ways. To test this, we designed a controlled experiment using first year
college students who made choices over real‐stakes lotteries at two distinct dates. Students were
randomly assigned to classes of three types: all female, all male, and coeducational. They were not
allowed to change group subsequently. We found that women are less likely to make risky choices than
men at both dates. However, after eight weeks in a single‐sex environment, women were significantly
more likely to choose the lottery than their counterparts in coeducational groups. These results are
robust to the inclusion of controls for IQ and for personality type, as well as to a number of sensitivity
tests. Our findings suggest that observed gender differences in behaviour under uncertainty found in
previous studies might partly reflect social learning rather than inherent gender traits.

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