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Choosing to compete: How different are girls and boys?

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  • Booth, Alison
  • Nolen, Patrick

Abstract

Using a controlled experiment, we examine the role of nurture in explaining the stylized fact that women shy away from competition. We have two distinct research questions. First, does the gender composition of the group to which a student is randomly assigned affect competitive choices? Second, does the gender mix of the school a student attends affect competitive choices? Our subjects (students just under 15 years of age) attend publicly funded single-sex and coeducational schools. We find robust differences between the competitive choices of girls from single-sex and coed schools. Moreover, girls from single-sex schools behave more like boys even when randomly assigned to mixed-sex experimental groups. This suggests that it is untrue that the average female avoids competitive behavior more than the average male. It also suggests that observed gender differences might reflect social learning rather than inherent gender traits.

Suggested Citation

  • Booth, Alison & Nolen, Patrick, 2012. "Choosing to compete: How different are girls and boys?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 542-555.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:81:y:2012:i:2:p:542-555
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2011.07.018
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Tournament; Piece-rate; Gender; Experiment; Competitive behavior;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods

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