The academic community has become increasingly concerned about gender gaps. To study causes and better devise policy approaches, recent research has focused on gender differences in preferences. Croson and Gneezy (2009 JEL) suggest an important role of risk preference and present two stylized findings: First, females are more risk-averse than males on average and, second, the gender gap in risk-taking reduces or vanishes in professional environments.
Our study is the first to scrutinize the causal role of the professional context and its associated identity for the gender gap in risk-taking. For this purpose, we conduct an online field experiment with 474 scientists. Drawing on identity theory (Akerlof and Kranton 2000 QJE), we experimentally vary the salience of the professional or private identity through priming to activate the professional scientific identity and associated norms (Benjamin et al. 2010 AER; Cohn et al. 2014 Nature).
We confirm the two stylized findings suggested by Croson and Gneezy (2009). In addition, we identify the switching of identities, especially by females, as an explanation. Females act more risk-averse in the private identity compared to the professional identity. Our results suggest that if gender gaps are driven by selection, the selection works not only along general preferences, but also along the ability to switch between identities and to adapt to prevailing norms. Our findings thus illustrate how identity economics can help to inform the discussion on gender gaps. In follow-up work, we aim at replicating the main effect of the study and at disentangling gender and non-gender related aspects of the private identity.
Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften
Juniorprofessur für Volkswirtschaftslehre, insbesondere Umweltökonomik
Prof. Dr. Moritz Drupp
Menusch Khadjavi (U Kiel), Marie-Catherine Riekhof (ETH Zurich), Rudi Voss (U Kiel, idiv Leipzig)