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Department ofEconomics


Empathy, Gender, and Prosocial Behavior

Linda Kamas and Anne Preston

Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics

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This paper examines how empathy is associated with gender differences in prosocial behavior in some economic games. Examining dictator, charitable giving, public goods, and trust games, we find that accounting for empathy eliminates the significance of gender differences in prosocial behavior in all four games. When the data are pooled from all games, the reduction in the female coefficients are significant after including either total empathy or empathic concern. The strong effect of empathy on prosocial behavior in the four games persists with controls for college major and demographics. This pattern replicates itself only with empathic concern, not the other empathy subscales. We conclude that measured gender differences in prosocial behavior in the games are not due wholly to sex per se, but at least partially to personality traits such as empathy that both sexes share, and that the most empathic men act as pro-socially as do women.


LSB Research, ECON, Linda Kamas, 2020