Can Empathy Explain Gender Differences in Economic Policy Views in the United States?

Linda Kamas and Anne Preston

This paper shows that different levels of empathy of men and women explain the well-documented gender differences in interventionist government economic policy views in the United States. Using the Davis Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) to measure empathy, the study finds that more empathic people support more interventionist policies. While greater empathy leads both men and women to support more government action, there is no gender difference in the effects of empathy on policy views. When policy views are separated by area, gender differences on policies concerning poverty, inequality, and social welfare disappear once empathy is accounted for, though they persist in views on free markets.

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