The gendered construction of risk in asset accumulation for retirement

James, Hayley and Agunsoye, Ariane. 2023. The gendered construction of risk in asset accumulation for retirement. New Political Economy, 28(4), pp. 574-591. ISSN 1356-3467 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This work contributes to the political economy literature by elucidating gendered socio-cultural practices germane to everyday financialisation. The financialisation of retirement provision in the UK expects individuals to negotiate risk and reward across diverse investments. Existing quantitative research highlights gender disparities in terms of who saves and how much, often interpreted as inherent behavioural traits which cast female behaviour as irrational. Yet, this ignores the dominance of masculine norms in shaping financial capitalism and the impact of gender-normative roles on everyday behaviours. Building on insights feminist political economy, this paper examines how constructions of gender, meaning socialised gender roles and norms, shape the ways men and women deal with financial risk when accumulating assets for later life. Drawing on 105 semi-structured interviews, we find that men and women understand and respond to risk in different and contradictory ways based on constructions of gender. These distinct approaches lead to divergent investment strategies: men tend to align with the gendered role of the risk-seeking investor, while women tend to feel alienated by models of investment which do not appear to fit feminine norms. This disparity compounds the effect of structural inequalities with implications for long-term welfare under financialisation.

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Of the two interview sets conducted in this paper, the first was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) [grant number ES/J500094/1] and the Pensions Policy Institute, an independent research organisation with a charitable objective to inform the policy debate on pensions and retirement income provision.


gender, finance, asset accumulation, risk, pensions, retirement

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Institute of Management Studies


15 November 2022Accepted
28 November 2022Published Online

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28 Nov 2022 09:58

Last Modified:

18 Jul 2023 13:48

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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