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Class of 2022
Business in the Liberal Arts

Mark Mahoney completed this fellowship and will be graduating in 2022. In the fellowship he tied together his passion for athletics with his interest in the discipline of economics. In the future, Mark and Dr. Chezum hope to conduct the survey they designed.


Research has found that risk preferences differ between men and women, with women tending to be more risk averse. For many individual’s, participation in athletics plays an important role in their social development, thus we might expect athletics participation to impact social outcomes including for example risk preferences. I evaluated the possibility that athletics participation correlates with risk preferences and consider how this impact may differ by gender.

Although the summer fellowship was switched to a remote learning experience due to our countries current health crisis, Dr. Chezum and I were able to complete an intellectually rewarding project. The majority of the work involved the St. Lawrence library resources which were available online and Dr. Chezum and I chatted regularly about the research. I went into the project with the understanding that in the financial world, the stated and popularly perceived notion is that there are gender differences in risk taking. Beyond that, I had very little knowledge about the influence risk preferences have in a variety of settings.

Female business owners, as an aggregate population, pool at the lower end of the funding spectrum (Hart et al. 2011) and are frequently described as financially risk averse (Jianakoplos and Bernasek 1998; Kepler and Shane 2007). We wanted to look into how social environments, namely athletics, may influence ones risk preferences. Beyond an article which studied the relationship between gender and risk preferences during speed boat races in Japan (Booth and Yamamura 2017) no one has looked at athletic participation as it might affect differences in risk preferences. For many individual’s, participation in athletics plays an important role in their social development. Thus, we might expect athletic participation to impact social outcomes including for example risk preferences.

We then considered the possibility that less risk averse women negotiate more aggressively when receiving job offers. Under this assumption, if athletics participation leads women to be less risk averse, they will do relatively better in the labor market. This kind of impact provides economic support for Title IX’s pressure on colleges and high schools to provide more athletics opportunities to women. Consequently, if athletics participation reduces the risk preference gap in the financial world, it will be evident that Title IX’s benefits run far deeper than simply providing equal opportunity for women in sport.

Our next task was to design a survey that could be used to elicit risk preferences. The first section contained questions which collect basic demographic information from future respondents. The next section of the survey used financial questions designed to elicit risk preferences of the respondent. Based on our research, we believed it was necessary to also include sections to elicit both optimism and competitiveness. This is because these two variables may heavily influence risk preferences.

I finished off the summer by completing the Institutional Review Board class. It is my plan to conduct the actual experiment during a senior year economics research project