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Economic Behavior Not Influenced by Gender or Biological Sex

Author: University of Exeter Business School
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Published: 15th Dec 2022 - Updated: 5th Jan 2023
Peer-Reviewed Publication: Yes
Additional References: LGBTQ+ News Publications

Summary: Analysis of transgender and cisgender economic behavior and the first to consider whether sex assigned at birth plays a significant part in economic decisions.


Behavioral Economics

Behavioral economics studies the effects of psychological, cognitive, emotional, cultural, and social factors on the decisions of individuals or institutions, such as how those decisions vary from those implied by classical economic theory. Behavioral economics is primarily concerned with the bounds of rationality of economic agents. Behavioral models typically integrate insights from psychology, neuroscience, and microeconomic theory. The study of behavioral economics includes how market decisions are made and the mechanisms that drive public opinion.

Main Document

On the Robustness of Gender Differences in Economic Behavior.

Gender and sex assigned at birth are not as decisive in economic decision-making as previously thought, a new study finds.

A new study published in Scientific Reports is the first analysis of transgender and cisgender economic behavior and the first to consider whether sex assigned at birth plays a significant part in economic decisions.

Helena Fornwagner and Brit Grosskopf from the University of Exeter Business School and Alexander Lauf, Vanessa Schöller, and Silvio Städter (University of Regensburg) have for the first time investigated the role of gender identity and biological sex in economic decision-making.

The researchers explored whether being transgender or cisgender impacted factors that could influence whether we compete with others in applying for a new job, investing in a risky asset, or donating to charity.

In a controlled experimental study featuring 780 participants, with around half identifying as transgender, they hypothesized that if gender identity does determine levels of competitiveness, risk-taking, or altruism with money, then those with the same gender identity (cis men and trans men, and cis women and trans women) will make similar decisions. Those with different gender identities would make significantly different economic decisions. Moreover, it was suggested that participants having the same biological sex (cismen and transwomen, and ciswomen and transmen) would behave comparably.

The researchers used a series of well-known economic experiments to determine how competitive the participants were with money, their willingness to take risks, and how willing they were to give to charity. Before making any decisions, the participants completed a word search priming exercise that subconsciously assigned them a masculine, feminine or gender-neutral identity by asking them to find gender-specific words.

Using their study design, the researchers first test for a correlation impact of gender and sex by comparing the behavior of cis-gender men, cis women, trans men, and trans women. Second, the priming intervention enabled to control for causal inferences about gender and behavior.

In contrast to previous studies that have established links between gender and economic behavior, the researchers found that gender and biological sex make no significant difference to our economic decisions.

Part of their rationale for this unexpected finding is that educational initiatives and a greater awareness of gender equality in private and professional settings have narrowed any economic and behavioral differences, which were first established in studies almost two decades ago.

Dr. Fornwagner said:

"Gender has long been reported to be a driving factor in domains such as competitiveness, risk-taking, and altruism, but our study is the first to ask how much can be associated with gender, and how much is based on the biological sex people are endowed with."

"Despite the partly unexpected findings that led us to conclude that the role of gender and sex is not as decisive for economic behavior as previously assumed, we believe there are several important takeaways from this study."

"Transgender individuals have become a more and more visible part of society. Thus, we think it is crucial to understand their economic behavior and essential to expand experimental economic research to all groups summarized under the LGBTQ+ flag to acknowledge the colorful society we are already part of also in our scientific research."

"On the robustness of gender differences in economic behavior" is published in Scientific Reports.

References and Source(s):

Economic Behavior Not Influenced by Gender or Biological Sex | University of Exeter Business School ( makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.

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• (APA): University of Exeter Business School. (2022, December 15). Economic Behavior Not Influenced by Gender or Biological Sex. Retrieved January 30, 2023 from

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