Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1996


Gender risk perception, Environmental hazards, Health hazards


Women have, in many studies, rated environmental and health hazards as more risky and less acceptable than men rate the same risks. Biologically-based sex differences fail to provide an adequate explanation, however, as gender differences do not hold true in non-white populations. Ratings by minority males and females, in fact, both correspond roughly to those of white females. Other possible explanations, such as differences in familiarity, are also refuted, as gender differences are found when there are no differences in familiarity. Some explanations cite different socialization patterns for men and women, but this would probably be expected among minority populations as well. Differences may be best explained by a combination of socialization and sociopolitical factors such as power, control and vulnerability.

A pilot study was conducted, with a sample of mostly white participants, which replicated parts of the study by Flynn, Slovic, and Mertz (1994). Results showed a gender difference in risk ratings (p * .06). A strong negative correlation (r = -.3155 with p = .0001) was found between risk ratings and scores on a measure of trust in government and industry. This supports the sociopolitical difference explanation.

This explanation is further supported by a similar study of high school students which found no gender differences and risk scores significantly higher than those of the first sample (p » .001). Further research is suggested.



Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Risk perception--Sex differences; Health risk assessment--Sex differences; Environmental risk assessment--Sex differences


student projects; term papers




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