Review of BEgender@DIW 2015

Symposium on Behavioral Economics with an Emphasis on Gender

Gender Studies at DIW Berlin hosted a symposium on behavioral economics with an emphasis on gender issues. The keynote speaker was Julie A. Nelson (Professor of Economics at University of Massachusetts Boston, USA, leading writer of feminist economic thoughts, (co-)author of famous books like “Beyond Economic Man” and “Feminism, Objectivity, and Economics”.), who presented her research on the “difference” view with regard to the “robust” findings of women’s greater risk aversion compared to men. This originates from the perspective that behavioral research is simplifying results to the extent that it risks reinforcing pre-existing gender stereotypes as between-gender differences in behavior are overgeneralized and the underlying preferences are referred to sex-linked traits. In fact, digging into the data reveals that men and women are more alike than meets the eye with large between-gender similarities.

Nevertheless, the literature on gender differences in choices and preferences makes an important attempt to explain the persistence of gender specific labor market gaps. In addition, it established a research branch dealing with gender issues in the economics discipline that would otherwise be treated as a marginal issue. However, there is a danger that the “difference” view on women and men will be emphasized and supposed biological or evolutionary explanations resurge.

Therefore, the primary goal of this symposium was, on the one hand, to provide a forum for exchanging knowledge and ideas about behavioral economics research on the patterns of gender differences. On the other, it also was seeking to sensitize researchers to the potential bias of presenting results on overstretched between-gender differences. This symposium exemplified the combination of research and policy relevance that DIW Berlin stands for.

The symposium brought together doctoral students, postdoctoral researchers and professors from a variety of international research institutions. As such, it aimed to inspire research collaborations and to identify further research paths.