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Gender differences in competitiveness: Empirical evidence from professional distance running


  • Frick, Bernd


A large body of literature documents the existence of a considerable and persistent gender gap in competitiveness. Using longitudinal data from professional distance running covering a period of nearly 40Â years (1973-2009) I first confirm the findings of most previous studies by demonstrating that on average the women's races were - for most years - indeed less competitive than the men's contests. Closer inspection of the data, however, reveals that the women's races over distances with large amounts of prize money and/or prestige at stake (5000Â m track, 10,000Â m road, half marathon, and marathon) have always been particularly "balanced". Moreover, although it still exists, the gender gap has considerably narrowed over the years. These findings are not compatible with the hypothesis that gender differences in competitiveness reflect evolved biological differences and/or psychological predispositions. It is, however, compatible with two other (complementary rather than substitute) hypotheses: due to changing socio-cultural conditions boys and girls are today socialized similarly in many parts of the world and due to the increasing returns to success (i.e. identical prize money levels and distributions) women are nowadays motivated to train as hard as comparably talented men.

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  • Frick, Bernd, 2011. "Gender differences in competitiveness: Empirical evidence from professional distance running," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 389-398, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:labeco:v:18:y:2011:i:3:p:389-398

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    Cited by:

    1. D. Checchi & S. Cicognani & N. Kulic, 2015. "Gender quotas or girls’ networks? Towards an understanding of recruitment in the research profession in Italy," Working Papers wp1047, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    2. Filippin, Antonio & van Ours, Jan C, 2012. "Run For Fun: Intrinsic Motivation and Physical Performance," CEPR Discussion Papers 8873, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Eva Marikova Leeds & Michael A. Leeds, 2013. "Do men and women respond differently to economic contests? The case of men’s and ladies’ figure skating," Chapters,in: Handbook on the Economics of Women in Sports, chapter 15, pages 319-344 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Koning Ruud H. & Maennig Wolfgang, 2012. "Guest Editorial," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 232(3), pages 204-209, June.
    5. John P. Conley & Ali Sina Onder & Benno Torgler, 2012. "Are all High-Skilled Cohorts Created Equal? Unemployment, Gender, and Research Productivity," CREMA Working Paper Series 2012-15, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    6. Che, XiaoGang & Humphreys, Brad, 2012. "Earnings and Performance in Women's Professional Alpine Skiing," Working Papers 2012-22, University of Alberta, Department of Economics.
    7. XiaoGang Che & Brad R. Humphreys, 2013. "Earnings and performance in women’s skiing," Chapters,in: Handbook on the Economics of Women in Sports, chapter 6, pages 115-131 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    8. Maria Cubel & Santiago Sanchez-Pages, 2016. "Gender differences and stereotypes in strategic thinking," UB Economics Working Papers 2016/338, Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat d'Economia i Empresa, UB Economics.
    9. Luiza Antonie & Miana Plesca & Jennifer Teng, 2016. "Heterogeneity in the Gender Wage Gap in Canada," Working Papers 1603, University of Guelph, Department of Economics and Finance.
    10. repec:ebl:ecbull:eb-17-00576 is not listed on IDEAS


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