Culture may affect gender difference in risk taking

New York (IANS) The different approaches to risk-taking might not be inherent and could be shaped by culture and social environment, according to a study.

Previous studies have shown that women are more risk-averse than men, and more likely to opt for a smaller sure thing than an all-or-nothing gamble, but Chinese and American economists found through a new research project that the difference could shift at least in children, Xinhua news agency reported.

“If we can teach girls that they should be more risk loving, perhaps that will shape their future decision-making,” said Elaine Liu, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Houston.

The gender norms could have long-term economic consequences, even potentially shrinking the gender pay gap if it led to women choosing riskier but higher-reward career paths, the researchers said.

In the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team looked at the behaviour of children from two cultures — the matrilineal Mosuo people and the traditionally patriarchal Han. They attended the same school in China.

When the children first began their elementary study, Mosuo girls took more risks than Mosuo boys, while Han girls were less likely to take risks than Han boys in keeping with their parents’ cultural norms. But that began to change as the children were exposed to the other culture.

The Mosuo girls took more risks than Han girls at the beginning, but their attitude towards taking risk became more similar as they spent more time together, showing a sign of convergence.

They studied children’s attitudes through a lottery-style game, offering the students six choices ranging from a guaranteed three-yuan payout to a 50/50 per cent chance of winning 10 yuan or nothing.

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