Monday, February 4, 2013

Gender and Generosity

Stefano DellaVigna, John A. List, Ulrike Malmendier, and Gautam Rao have a new working paper on "The Importance of Being Marginal: Gender Differences in Generosity"
The abstract reads:
"Do men and women have different social preferences? Previous findings are contradictory. We provide a potential explanation using evidence from a field experiment. In a door-to-door solicitation, men and women are equally generous, but women become less generous when it becomes easy to avoid the solicitor. Our structural estimates of the social preference parameters suggest an explanation: women are more likely to be on the margin of giving, partly because of a less dispersed distribution of altruism. We find similar results for the willingness to complete an unpaid survey: women are more likely to be on the margin of participation."

In their conclusion they write:
"This study uncovers an important relationship between gender and giving patterns: there are gender differences in social preferences, but it is important to go beyond considering differences in means –important gender differences may be at the margin. This leads women to give more in certain situations, but not in others, and also to be more sensitive to social cues."

This reminds me of the paper by Andreoni, Jim and Lise Vesterlund. 2001. “Which is the fair sex? Gender differences in altruism.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 116(4): 293-312 (that the Della Vigna et al cite)

Their abstract reads:
"We study gender differences in altruism by examining a modified dictator game with varying incomes and prices. Our results indicate that the question “which is the fair sex?” has a complicated answer—when altruism is expensive, women are kinder, but when it is cheap, men are more altruistic. That is, we Žfind that the male and female “demand curves for altruism” cross, and that men are more responsive to price changes. Furthermore, men are more likely to be either perfectly selfish or perfectly selfless, whereas women tend to be “equalitarians” who prefer to share evenly."

The conclusion there too points that:
"This study finds that, depending on the price of giving, either sex can be found to be more altruistic. When the price of giving is low, men appear more altruistic, and when the price is high, women are more generous. Stated differently, men are more likely to be either perfectly selfish or perfectly selfless, whereas women care more about equalizing payoffs. This leads to demand curves for altruism that cross and those for men are more price-elastic.
        There are several important consequences of this result. First, this finding can potentially unify a literature that has thus far been fractured by inconsistent findings. By showing that differences in altruism depend on the price, we can begin to organize studies that sometimes found men to be more altruistic and sometimes women. Second, this indicates a need for more attention to sex differences in experimental economics. If differences appear with respect to altruism, they may appear in other behavior as well. This, in turn, means that researchers would be wise to assure that their experimental findings are the result of economic incentives and not of varying sex compositions of their control and treatment groups."

It's good that those papers are consistent with each other...

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