The Nashville Business Journal (2008) reports that the current economic crisis has Americans most concerned about a steady income stream over their lifetime. The study, conducted by AXA Equitable Life Insurance (2008), polled 400 U.S. consumers (age 35-70, household income > $75k) found that men were more likely to have made changes in their investments in response to the economic downturn than women. However, women were more likely than men to rate items like "guaranteed lifetime income" and "protecting retirement income" as "extremely important." AXA Equitable's chief innovation officer Barbara Goodstein interpreted this result as increased conservatism in female investors: "Women are clearly focused on protecting retirement income and have been responding more conservatively as a result."
Ms. Goodman's reaction is consistent with third-party-risk-estimation models proposed by Eckel and Grossman (2002). Eckel and Grossman did find that women in their investment simulation were more risk-averse than men. More tellingly, perhaps, they found that both men and women underestimated other people's capacity for risk. Women especially were guessed to behave more conservatively than their actual behavior.
Honestly, I don't feel like "moving" or "not moving" your money is a necessarily conservative or risky approach, because you don't know what criteria the investors are basing these decisions on. What strikes me is the question of whether women used more "very important" ratings in general than men. That is, were men and women using the same scale when they rated the importance of items. The AXA Equitable report doesn't mention any category that men listed as more important, which leads me to speculate that these were not forced-rank choices. Further, I'd speculate that women will typically rate more items as "important", due to socialization pressures that make it more okay to express emotion.
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