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Gender differences in competitiveness: Empirical evidence from professional distance running

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  • Frick, Bernd

Abstract

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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