Men and women each have their strengths and weaknesses, but when it comes to giving for the greater good, who is more charitable?

A new study by economists has found that women are more likely to opt out of a donation request from door-to-door fundraisers compared to men, but are just as likely to donate during unexpected visits.

While researchers are uncertain why, "it could be that women are more sensitive to social cues than are men, and that is why they are more likely to give in situations where they don't have an easy way to avoid a donation, such as when they are asked for a donation face-to-face," said John List, Homer J. Livingston Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago.

The findings appear in this month's issue of American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings.

Researchers from the University of Chicago and University of California, Berkeley conducted door-to-door studies that asked neighborhoods to raise money for a children's hospital and an out-of-state environmental organization.

Some visits were unannounced, while others received fliers that announced their arrival the next day or fliers that allowed the person to opt out of the fund request.

"The simple flier lowers the share of people answering the door, relative to the people who did not have warning of the visit, but it does not affect the share of people giving," List said.

However, the opt-out option reduced both the number of people answering the door and giving, he added, and the drop was signifiant in women.

Specifically, about three percent of women and men contributed during unannounced visits, while the opt-out option showed a slight dip in men's contribution but a near fifty percent drop in women's donations.

Other factors such as gender-specific altruism were also examined, and researchers found that more women were on the margin about giving, which more likely influenced them to choose the opt-out option if given the chance.

But during the unannounced visits, women were just as likely to open the door and donate as men, so security and sensitivity to answering doors to strangers were not a concern.

Researchers said they will need to probe the study further to analyze women's social cues and why women appear to respond differently to these charitable causes.

Source: DellaVigna S, List JA, Malmendier U, et al. The importance of being marginal: gender differences in generosity. American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings. 2013.