Journal of Risk and Uncertainty

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 1–26

Digit ratios (2D:4D) as predictors of risky decision making for both sexes


DOI: 10.1007/s11166-010-9109-6

Cite this article as:
Garbarino, E., Slonim, R. & Sydnor, J. J Risk Uncertain (2011) 42: 1. doi:10.1007/s11166-010-9109-6


Many important decisions involve financial risk, and substantial evidence suggests that women tend to be more risk averse than men. We explore a potential biological basis of risk-taking variation within and between the sexes by studying how the ratio between the length of the second and fourth fingers (2D:4D) predicts risk-taking. A smaller 2D:4D ratio has been linked to higher exposure to prenatal testosterone relative to estradiol, with men having lower ratios than women. In financially motivated decision-making tasks, we find that men and women with smaller 2D:4D ratios chose significantly riskier options. We further find that the ratio partially explains the variation in risk-taking between the sexes. Moreover, for men and women at the extremes of the digit-ratio distribution the difference in risk-taking disappears. Thus, the 2D:4D ratio partially explains variation in financial risk-taking behavior within and between sexes and offers evidence of a biological basis for risk-taking behavior.


RiskSex differencesExperimentsTestosterone

JEL Classification


Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Marketing, Faculty of Economics and BusinessUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Economics, Faculty of Arts and Social SciencesUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Actuarial Science, Risk Management, and Insurance Department, Wisconsin School of BusinessUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA