Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Christos Giannikos

Committee Members

Merih Uctum

Wim Vijverberg

Subject Categories

Behavioral Economics | Finance


Individual Investors, Gender Differences, Survey of Consumer Finances


The primary goal of this dissertation is the study and measurement of the effect of gender in the process of financial decision making and investment decision making in particular, under uncertainty. In terms of investment decisions, researchers have linked investors’ risk aversion to several individual characteristics of theirs, such as their age, their income or their financial knowledge. However, an investor’s characteristic, somehow overlooked or not properly investigated, has been the investor’s gender, and the latter’s bearing on investment decision making. Research from the 1990s suggested that once individuals are called to allocate their wealth and make investment decisions, women are more conservative investors than men manifesting greater relative financial risk aversion than men. The gender argument continued, and highlighted the repercussions of this behavior on women’s long-term investment goals, with most prominent here, the accumulation of adequate retirement wealth. Studying the above argument, and investigating the over time pattern and current trend of individual investors’ in financial risk taking, especially in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 financial crisis constitutes the main goal of the current dissertation. More specifically, the current work aspires to provide the latest trend on risk taking behavior of individual investors, and to add to the relevant gender literature by empirically comparing the risk taking of female and male investors. The dissertation consists of three essays. In the first essay, gender differences in relative financial risk aversion over time are measured. To that effect, the 1998 seminal work by Jianakoplos and Bernasek (JB) is studied and reexamined. The essay starts with a presentation of the Friend and Blume theoretical framework on which the JB work is based, and subsequently, the analysis is done in two different directions. First, the JB work for the Survey of Consumer Finances of 1989 is replicated, employing Repeated-Imputation Inference techniques, and thereafter, the JB model is tested on the most recent Survey of Consumer Finances of 2013, with the two data sets being treated as two independent cross-sections. Second, the two independent cross-sections are pooled together, and by adding time interactions, the model is studied over time, repeating the tests for gender differences. In the second essay of the dissertation, a refinement of the JB model employed in the first essay is attempted. More specifically, following a thorough study of the Survey of Consumer Finances, and especially of its latest setup for 2013, and in accordance with other researchers' approaches, certain limitations of the JB model are addressed. The limitations pertain to ``left out'' or mishandled categories of assets in the computation of wealth, and to an erroneous handling and consideration of specific demographic data of the respondents. To overcome these limitations, the dissertation proceeds first with a broader coverage of assets that takes advantage of the latest information available in the 2013 SCF, allowing a more nuanced split of the assets into risk-free, and risky ones, and second with a more appropriate consideration of the available demographic information. The modified JB model is tested again on the 1989 SCF, as well as on the 2013 SCF, and the tests of gender differences are repeated in pursuit of a further nuanced analysis. In the third essay of the dissertation, the interest shifts entirely to retirement assets, and to the study of gender differences in risk taking related to the accumulation of retirement wealth. To that effect, employing again data from the SCF, and more specifically its latest version of 2013, and taking advantage of the availability of information related to employment and pensions for both the respondent and the respondent's spouse or partner, gender differences in individuals' investment strategies in their defined contribution plans are investigated. It is stressed that by defined contribution plans, the work refers to employer-sponsored plans such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and thrift saving accounts from current or past jobs, as well as to Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), Roth, and Keogh accounts. All information about the aforementioned employer-sponsored plans, as well as about the balances of IRAs and Keogh accounts is handily available by the SCF, while the essay builds carefully its own split into risky, and risk-free defined contribution plans. The dissertation concludes with the recording of the outcomes of the work, the highlighting of policy implications, and the sketching of future directions of the research.