Time to take your daughter to the casino

My colleague Alison Booth has an article in VoxEU on gender, risk and competition (I blogged on part of this research agenda recently). Some snippets.

Gender differences in risk aversion and competition, it is sometimes argued, may help explain some of the observed gender disparities in labour force achievement. For example, if remuneration in high-paying jobs is tied to bonuses based on a company’s performance and if women are more risk-averse than men, fewer women may choose to take high-paying jobs because of the uncertainty. …

An interesting study by Gneezy, Leonard, and List (2008) explored the role of culture in determining gender differences in competitive behaviour. They investigated two distinct societies, the Maasai tribe of Tanzania and the Khasi tribe in India. The former is patriarchal while the latter is matrilineal. In the patriarchal society, women were found to be less competitive than men, a result consistent with studies using data from Western cultures. But in the matrilineal society, women were more competitive than men. Indeed, the Khasi women were found to be as competitive as Maasai men. The authors interpret this as evidence that culture has an influence. …

We found that girls from single-sex schools were as likely to take a risk by gambling their £5 in the hopes of winning £11 as boys (from either coed or single sex schools) and were more likely to take a risk than coed girls. Moreover, gender differences in preferences for risk-taking were sensitive to the gender mix of the experimental group, with girls being more likely to choose to take a risk when assigned to an all-girl group. This suggests that observed gender differences in behaviour under uncertainty found in previous studies might reflect social learning rather than inherent gender traits. …

Using the data generated from this experiment, we found that girls from single-sex schools were significantly more likely to choose to enter the tournament than coeducational girls, ceteris paribus. Being randomly assigned to an all-girls group made the girl more likely to enter the tournament. We also compared girls’ behaviour with that of boys from single-sex and coeducational schools – girls from single-sex schools behaved more like boys. …

While our research should not be interpreted as saying that we should all immediately enrol our daughters in single-sex schools, it does provide food for thought. Educational studies have shown that there may be more pressure for girls to maintain their gender identity in schools where boys are present than for boys when girls are present. …

Women may be trained to be so by their environment. Appropriate policy action might be directed not only to removing discrimination on the demand-side but also towards developing female confidence in risk-taking on the supply-side.

4 thoughts on “Time to take your daughter to the casino”

  1.  
    Also worth noting that a lot of Girls schools are quite aggressively feminist (so I hear) and push very hard for girls to “be all they can”.
    A friend of mine used to say she wanted to be a housewife when she grew up just to provoke the staff.

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  2.  

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    Why no results on competition levels of boys when they are assigned to all male groups? I reckon the effect of male peer groups on the likelhood of stereotypical male behaviour would have been of much more social importance.
    Regarding the main result, here is another interpretation. In any heterogeneous group, natural tendencies tend to get reinforced. We specialise to our strengths. The more competitive receive positive feedback. The less competitive start to believe they cannot successfully compete. Boys are more competitive and less risk averse then girls on average. So when you put girls with boys they tend to become even less competitive. But you may well find the same result if you divided subject by some initial measure of competition

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  3. Why no results on competition levels of  boys when they are assigned to all male groups? I reckon the effect of male peer groups on the likelhood of stereotypical male behaviour would have been of much more social importance.
    Regarding the main result, here is another interpretation. In any heterogeneous group, natural tendencies tend to get reinforced. We specialise to our strengths. The more competitive receive positive feedback. The less competitive start to believe they cannot successfully compete. Boys are more competitive and less risk averse then girls on average. So when you put girls with boys they tend to become even less competitive. But you may well find the same result if you divided subject by some initial measure of competition and aggression rather than gender.

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