Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Gender Generosity

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Gender Generosity

Article excerpt

Maybe economics, often labeled the "dismal science," is livelier than you think.

There's a relatively young wing of economics that doesn't just, say, measure an economy, determine whether it is growing or shrinking, and try to explain why. Proponents of the new "economic science," a few hundred in number, conduct real experiments, much like natural scientists.

Some of their work can be important. For example, one pioneer in this field helped conduct experiments to determine what would be the most lucrative way for the federal government to auction off its microwave communication spectrum. The method devised was wildly successful. The auction brought in billions of dollars, far more than ever imagined.

One recent economic experiment caught our eye. The topic: Who's less selfish: women or men? The experiment-based answer - women - may be no surprise. Think of mothers' sacrifices on behalf of their children.

Here's how economists Catherine Eckel, of Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, and Philip Grossman, University of Texas at Arlington, tested this, as reported in the London-based Economic Journal:

They gave groups of students envelopes containing 10 $1 bills and 10 blank slips of paper. …

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