Professional identity and the gender gap in risk-taking. Evidence from field experiments with scientists

Moritz A. Drupp, Menusch Khadjavi, Marie Catherine Riekhof*, Rudi Voss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The gender gap in risk-taking is often used to explain differences in labor market outcomes. Yet, a number of studies suggest that this gap is larger in private contexts and is reduced in professional contexts. In two online field experiments with more than 1500 scientists we shed light on the causal role of the professional context by varying the salience of the professional or private identity. The main study finds that the gender gap in risk-taking is moderated—and vanishes for older scientists—when the professional identity is salient. The second study—designed to further explore mechanisms relating to non-professional identity—yields inconclusive results. While the results of the main study imply that gender gaps may be driven by the ability to switch between identities and adapt to prevailing norms, our second study suggest the need for further research to examine how prevailing norms are shaped and identity affects gender gaps.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)418-432
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior and Organization
Early online date18 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


We are grateful to Billur Aksoy, Thomas Buser, Ilyana Kuziemko, Andreas Leibbrandt, Lukas Menkhoff, Martin Quaas, Eva Ranehill, Ulrich Schmidt, Renate Schubert, Roel van Veldhuizen, two anonymous reviewers and Co-Editor Laura Schechter as well as to seminar audiences at EEA 2017, ETH Zurich, and the University of Duisburg-Essen for helpful comments. We thank the participating scientists, the administrative office of the science organization for providing e-mail address data, Joern Schmidt for handling e-mail correspondence, Olaf Bock and his team at the Experimental Lab in Hamburg for help in administering the experiment, as well as Pia Foerster, Nico Ohlenmacher, Clara Paczkowski and Lasse Schmidt for research assistance. This work was supported by the German Ministry of Education and Research [grant 01UT1410] and by the Cluster of Excellence 80, which is funded by the German Research Organization (DFG) on behalf of the German federal and state governments.

FundersFunder number
German Research Organization
German federal and state governments
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung01UT1410
Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich
Universität Duisburg-Essen


    • Field experiment
    • Gender
    • Identity
    • Labor market
    • Priming
    • Risk-taking


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