The effect and origin of gender differences in perception of risk


Gender differences are the most cited demographic variable in risk perception. Many studies argue that women judge risk to be larger in comparison to men (Slovic, 1997). There have been different explanations for this difference, concentrating mainly on the biological and social factors (Slovic, 1997). However, Flynn, Slovic, and Mertz (1994) indicated that the origin of gender differences in risk perception is rather socio-political. Namely, the authors observed, as expected, that the perceived risk of white males was lower than the risk perceived by white females, across various hazards. Surprisingly, however, the group of White males expressed lower risk perception compared to both non-white males and females, who reported a similar level of perceived risk. The authors concluded that what generated the observed differences might be the feeling of vulnerability present among the females of both races and non-white males. It is hypothesized that these groups might perceive themselves as more vulnerable due to the perception (or fact) that they have less control over their lives and communities and that they perceive that the institutions and technologies are less available to them (Flynn et al., 1994).

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