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Risky Business: New Study Explores Role of Gender, Testosterone in Financial Risk Aversion
Date:8/24/2009

n economic-based measure of risk aversion, found that higher levels of testosterone were associated with a greater appetite for risk in women, but not among men. However, in men and women with similar levels of testosterone, the gender difference in risk aversion disappeared. Additionally, the researchers reported that the link between risk aversion and testosterone predicted career choices after graduation: individuals who were high in testosterone and low in risk aversion chose riskier careers in finance.

"This is the first study showing that gender differences in financial risk aversion have a biological basis, and that differences in testosterone levels between individuals can affect important aspects of economic behavior and career decisions," said Maestripieri. "That the effects of testosterone on risk aversion are strongest for individuals with low or intermediate levels of this hormone is similar to what has been shown for the effects of testosterone on spatial cognition."

To investigate the relationship between testosterone and risk aversion, the authors measured testosterone levels in saliva samples (as well as markers of prenatal testosterone such as finger length) from approximately 500 MBA students at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

The uncharacteristically large sample--which was global in demographic scope--was familiar with financial risk by virtue of their education, and many pursued financial careers after business school. Also, the participants were relatively homogeneous in age, cultural and educational background, and socioeconomic status, thereby minimizing the effects of other non-biological variables.

As part of a mandatory MBA course, the students were asked to participate in a laboratory experiment to measure the relationship between risk and hormonal levels. Over two days in October 2006, the participants were asked to play a computer game t
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SOURCE Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University
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