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Department ofEconomics


Can Social Preferences Explain Gender Differences in Economic Behavior?

Linda Kamas and Anne Preston

Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 116, pp. 525-539, August 2015

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This study examines whether gender differences in some economic behaviors are due to differences in social preferences as measured by dictator allocation decisions. We find that, compared to men, women are significantly more likely to be inequity averters and significantly less likely to be social surplus maximizers. These differences in social preferences explain to a large extent why women send less than men in trust games. Inequity averters can ensure equal payoffs if nothing is returned by sending one-fourth of the endowment while surplus maximizers can increase total payoffs by a factor of three for each dollar sent. Social preferences also help explain the size of gifts in dictator games and choice of compensation method for simple tasks, however, after controlling for social preference type, gender is still influential in these decisions. Women give significantly more to charity than men even after accounting for our measure of social preferences. Women prefer egalitarian payment systems both because they are inequity averters and because low self-confidence may lead them to believe they will earn more with equal sharing.

LSB Research, ECON, 2015, Linda Kamas