Risk preference theory posits that females are more religious than males because they are more risk averse and are thus more motivated by the threat of afterlife punishment. We evaluate the theory formally and empirically. Formally, we show that the rational choice reasoning implied by the theory leads to unexpected conclusions if one considers belief in eternal rewards as well as eternal punishment. Empirically, we examine cross-cultural data and find that, across many populations, sex differences in religiosity are no smaller among those who do not believe in hell. We conclude by arguing that psychological characteristics are almost certainly crucial to understanding the difference, just not risk preference.
Freese, J. and Montgomery, J.D. (2007), "The Devil made her do it? Evaluating Risk Preference as an Explanation of Sex Differences in Religiousness", Correll, S.J. (Ed.) Social Psychology of Gender (Advances in Group Processes, Vol. 24), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 187-229. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0882-6145(07)24008-1
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