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Choosing to compete: How different are girls and boys?

  • Booth, Alison
  • Nolen, Patrick

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.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 81 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 542-555

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:81:y:2012:i:2:p:542-555
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo

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  1. John List & Kenneth Leonard & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Gender differences in competition: Evidence from a matrilineal and a patriarchal society," Artefactual Field Experiments 00049, The Field Experiments Website.
  2. Muriel Niederle & Carmit Segal & Lise Vesterlund, 2013. "How Costly Is Diversity? Affirmative Action in Light of Gender Differences in Competitiveness," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 59(1), pages 1-16, May.
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  5. Alison L. Booth & Patrick Nolen, 2009. "Gender Differences in Risk Behaviour: Does Nurture Matter?," CEPR Discussion Papers 601, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
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  13. Wiji Arulampalam & Alison Booth & Mark L. Bryan, 2006. "Is There a Glass Ceiling over Europe? Exploring the Gender Pay Gap across the Wages Distribution," CEPR Discussion Papers 510, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
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  17. Marie-Claire Villeval & Nabanita Datta Gupta & Anders Poulsen, 2005. "Male and Female Competitive Behavior - Experimental Evidence," Working Papers 0512, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique (GATE), Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Université Lyon 2, Ecole Normale Supérieure.
  18. Rachel Croson & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Gender Differences in Preferences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(2), pages 448-74, June.
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