Gender differences in financial risk aversion and career choices are affected by testosterone

Paola Sapienza, Luigi Zingales, Dario Maestripieri*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

471 Scopus citations


Women are generally more risk averse than men. We investigated whether between- and within-gender variation in financial risk aversion was accounted for by variation in salivary concentrations of testosterone and in markers of prenatal testosterone exposure in a sample of >500 MBA students. Higher levels of circulating testosterone were associated with lower risk aversion among women, but not among men. At comparably low concentrations of salivary testosterone, however, the gender difference in risk aversion disappeared, suggesting that testosterone has nonlinear effects on risk aversion regardless of gender. A similar relationship between risk aversion and testosterone was also found using markers of prenatal testosterone exposure. Finally, both testosterone levels and risk aversion predicted career choices after graduation: Individuals high in testosterone and low in risk aversion were more likely to choose risky careers in finance. These results suggest that testosterone has both organizational and activational effects on risk-sensitive financial decisions and long-term career choices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15268-15273
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number36
StatePublished - Sep 8 2009


  • Economic risk
  • Hormones
  • Neuroeconomics
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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