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Do Women Shy Away from Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?

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  • Muriel Niederle
  • Lise Vesterlund

Abstract

We examine whether men and women of the same ability differ in their selection into a competitive environment. Participants in a laboratory experiment solve a real task, first under a noncompetitive piece rate and then a competitive tournament incentive scheme. Although there are no gender differences in performance, men select the tournament twice as much as women when choosing their compensation scheme for the next performance. While 73 percent of the men select the tournament, only 35 percent of the women make this choice. This gender gap in tournament entry is not explained by performance, and factors such as risk and feedback aversion only play a negligible role. Instead, the tournament-entry gap is driven by men being more overconfident and by gender differences in preferences for performing in a competition. The result is that women shy away from competition and men embrace it. Copyright by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by MIT Press in its journal The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 122 (2007)
Issue (Month): 3 (08)
Pages: 1067-1101

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:122:y:2007:i:3:p:1067-1101

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  1. Marianne Bertrand & Kevin F. Hallock, 2000. "The Gender Gap in Top Corporate Jobs," NBER Working Papers 7931, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Andreoni,J. & Vesterlund,L., 1998. "Which is the fair sex? : Gender differences in altruism," Working papers 10, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  3. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 2008. "Men, Women and Risk Aversion: Experimental Evidence," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
  4. Uri Gneezy & Muriel Niederle & Aldo Rustichini, 2003. "Performance In Competitive Environments: Gender Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1049-1074, August.
  5. Altonji, Joseph G. & Blank, Rebecca M., 1999. "Race and gender in the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 48, pages 3143-3259 Elsevier.
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  7. Francine Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2006. "The US Gender Pay Gap in the 1990s: Slowing Convergence," Working Papers 887, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  8. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 2008. "Differences in the Economic Decisions of Men and Women: Experimental Evidence," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
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  10. Polachek, Solomon William, 1981. "Occupational Self-Selection: A Human Capital Approach to Sex Differences in Occupational Structure," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 63(1), pages 60-69, February.
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