Reports 2011/38

Gender differences in environmental related behaviour

This report discusses gender differences in the data collected in the OECD household survey on environmental behaviour.

This report discusses gender differences in the data collected in the OECD household survey on environmental behaviour. The survey asked a sample of 10 000 respondents from 10 countries (Norway, Sweden, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Australia and Korea) concerning household behaviour with respect to five areas: recycling, energy and water saving, organic food consumption and transportation. This report identifies and describes gender differences in behaviour, in underlying preferences and in household characteristics in this data. We use regression analyses to identify and test for significant gender differences in preferences, and we use differences in means to test for gender differences in background variables and the total effect of gender on behaviour.

In our estimations, where we test for significant gender differences in preferences, we find many significant differences with respect to several of the explanatory variables affecting behaviour. However, there was no clear pattern for most of these gender differences. The only systematic gender difference we found in the estimations was that the belief that they can actually contribute to a better environment seems to be a more important motivator for environmental friendly behaviour for men than it is for women. There are also many significant differences between the genders in the distribution of key background variables, in particular with respect to income, car ownership, participation in the workforce, education and choice of residence. However, these gender differences in preferences and background variables only result in pronounced gender differences in behaviour to a small degree. The exception is transportation, where gender differences are large and significant. Men have a higher probability of owning a car or a motorcycle than women. And given that the respondent owns a car, men drive significantly more than women. For the rest of the behaviour measured in this survey, the effect of the number of adults in the household is often more important for choices.

The results also imply that there are gender differences in how people respond to questions about hypothetical policy measures, where females tend to be more positive on average. Since these positive attitudes is not necessarily mirrored in reported behaviour, it may be difficult to infer on the basis of gender differences in the response to these hypothetical policy questions, to gender differences in actual behaviour.

Even if the analyses reveal significant gender differences, it does not necessarily imply that gender differences in environmental behaviour should have implications for environmental policies. Focusing on gender differences may lead to inferior policy recommendations because the focus is shifted away from the main aim, which is to improve the environment.

About the publication


Gender differences in environmental related behaviour


Hanne Marit Dalen, Bente Halvorsen

Series and number

Reports 2011/38


Statistisk sentralbyrå


Methods and documentation, Gender equality

ISBN (online)


ISBN (printed)




Number of pages

83 s



About Reports

Analyses and annotated statistical results from various surveys are published in the series Reports. Surveys include sample surveys, censuses and register-based surveys.