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Men More Likely Than Women to Deem Financial Lies Acceptable, Says New Poll

Insurance, Life Insurance
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A new NerdWallet survey finds there’s a gender gap when it comes to Americans’ willingness to lie to save money.

In the online Harris Poll, commissioned by NerdWallet, 2,115 adults were asked in February to rate eight financial lies on a scale of acceptability. For all but one of the questions, men were more likely to call the deceptions acceptable, sometimes at twice the rate of women.

Gender differences

  • 30% of men but just 18% of women said it is acceptable to not report under-the-table income to the IRS to pay less in taxes.
  • 25% of men and 16% of women said it is acceptable to lie about the number of miles driven each year to pay lower car insurance rates.
  • 22% of men and 12% of women said it is acceptable to lie about smoking marijuana to receive lower life insurance rates.
  • 16% of men and 8% of women said it is acceptable to lie about income on a credit card or loan application.

There was no statistical difference between men and women for just one question — using someone else’s subscription account, like Netflix or Amazon Prime. About 33% of respondents found such a lie to be acceptable.

Thinking versus doing

Just because men were more apt to call the deceptions acceptable doesn’t necessarily mean they’re more apt to lie, according to David Livingstone Smith, a philosophy professor at the University of New England and an expert in moral psychology.

“Acceptability can be interpreted in different ways,” Smith says. “You might think something is morally acceptable, without it being something you would actually do.”

But some research has shown that men are more apt to lie when faced with financial incentives. A 2012 study in the journal Economic Letters found women to be more averse to lying than men when there is a small monetary benefit, but found that this aversion disappears when the benefit is larger.

Another, from researchers with the Stockholm School of Economics, found 55% of men were willing to lie in order to receive a bigger payout, compared with 38% of women.

Differences in lies

Although some research suggests men are generally more prone to lie, academics aren’t sure how to explain the findings. It could be behavioral differences — women are more likely to be risk-averse and altruistic, according to the Stockholm research — or differences in the lies.

“We don’t find that men are more likely to lie across the board,” says Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist and author of “The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty.”

“In online dating, for instance, men are more likely to lie about height and women about weight. It’s not that men have a different moral fiber, but there are differences when it comes to particular domains of life.”

Elizabeth Renter is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: elizabeth@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ElizabethRenter.


Image via iStock.