Learning to embrace risk?

Learning to embrace risk?

Studies have shown women are more risk-averse than men, more likely to opt for the smaller sure thing than gamble on an all-or-nothing proposition, a trait experts say could help to explain the persistent wage gap between men and women.

New research suggests those gender differences in risk aversion are shaped by culture and the social environment and that those differences can shift, at least in children.

“Environment is extremely important in shaping risk aversion,” said Elaine Liu, associate professor of economics and author of a paper on the subject published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “If we can teach girls that they should be more risk loving, perhaps that will shape their future decision-making.”

Liu and co-author Sharon Xuejing Zuo of Fudan University looked at the behavior of children from two distinct cultures – the matrilineal Mosuo and the traditionally patriarchal Han – who attended the same school in Yunnan, China.

When the children first began elementary school, 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.

It worked both ways, Liu said. Mosuo girls became more risk-averse, while Han girls became more risk-loving.

Source: Can people learn to embrace risk?