Do Men Really Have no Shame?

Are women-only groups more successful because women have more shame than men?

Though microfinance is one of the most commonly applied development interventions, it is also one of the most gender biased. It is believed that women have a comparative advantage for functioning in groups formed for accessing microfinance provided as group loans.

This paper explores the possibility that such comparative advantage exists and that it is related to the greater propensity for women to feel shame or to induce feelings of shame in others. Some of the findings of the study are:

  • Men are less understanding of others when deciding how to behave, specially in the context of public goods;
  • Men are less effective than women in approving others;
  • Men are more likely than women to escape sanctioning by others;
  • There is no evidence to suggest that men are less responsive than women to social or shame sanctions imposed by others and it is inappropriate to characterize men as shameless, even though they show signs of being less pro-social than women.

To conclude the paper states that though women have a comparative advantage than men in functioning in groups, it is not related to their responsiveness to shame-sanctions. It relates to behavioural rules that women have internalised and women's efficacy in sanctioning others who behave anti-socially.

About this Publication

By Barr, A. & Kinsey, B.