Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Papers in Economics,
University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics

No 713: Do Gender Preference Gaps Impact Policy Outcomes?

Eva Ranehill () and Roberto A. Weber
Additional contact information
Eva Ranehill: Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University, Postal: P.O. Box 640, SE 40530 GÖTEBORG, Sweden
Roberto A. Weber: Department of Economics, University of Zurich

Abstract: A large body of evidence documents systematic gender differences in a variety of important economic preferences, such as risk-taking, competition and pro-sociality. One potential implication of this literature is that increased female representation in decision-making bodies may significantly affect organizational and policy outcomes. However, research has yet to establish a direct connection from gender differences in simple economic choice tasks, to voting over policy and to the resulting outcomes. We conduct a laboratory experiment to provide a test of such a connection. In small laboratory “societies,” people repeatedly vote for a redistribution policy and engage in a real-effort production task. In this environment, we observe a substantial difference in voting behavior, with women voting for significantly more egalitarian redistribution policies. This gender difference is large relative to other differences based on observable characteristics and is partly explained by gender gaps in economic preferences and in beliefs about relative performance. Gender voting gaps persist with experience and in environments with varying degrees of risk. We also observe policy differences between male- and female-controlled groups, though these are considerably smaller than the mean individual differences—a natural consequence of the aggregation of individual preferences into collective outcomes. Thus, we provide evidence for why substantial and robust gender differences in preferences may often fail to translate into differential policy outcomes with increased female representation in policymaking.

Keywords: gender differences; risk; altruism; redistributive preferences; experiment

JEL-codes: C91; C92

60 pages, November 2017

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