Background risk and risk-taking – evidence from the field

Most decisions involving risk are not taken in isolation. In addition to the risk from that decision, other independent, so-called ‘background’ risks, are considered. Our research adds to the growing evidence that this background risk influences risk-taking. We report results from a repeated lab-in-the-field investment task with Senegalese fishers in the presence of background risk related to their fishing income and their health. Our measure of background risk is the monthly wind condition. Without controls, we find that fishers act on average intemperately. Adding controls, we find that the impact of background risk on risk-taking—measured as the investment in the investment task—depends on the boat size of the fishers. When dividing the sample according to wealth, we find temperate behavior for the relatively poorer group and intemperate behavior that depends on boat lengths for the relatively richer group. Our results show the interrelations between background risk and context factors.


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