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Performance in Competitive Environments: Gender Differences

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  • Uri Gneezy
  • Muriel Niederle
  • Aldo Rustichini

Abstract

Even though the provision of equal opportunities for men and women has been a priority in many countries, large gender differences prevail in competitive high-ranking positions. Suggested explanations include discrimination and differences in preferences and human capital. In this paper we present experimental evidence in support of an additional factor: women may be less effective than men in competitive environments, even if they are able to perform similarly in non-competitive environments. In a laboratory experiment we observe, as we increase the competitiveness of the environment, a significant increase in performance for men, but not for women. This results in a significant gender gap in performance in tournaments, while there is no gap when participants are paid according to piece rate. This effect is stronger when women have to compete against men than in single-sex competitive environments: this suggests that women may be able to perform in competitive environments per se.

Suggested Citation

  • Uri Gneezy & Muriel Niederle & Aldo Rustichini, 2003. "Performance in Competitive Environments: Gender Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1049-1074.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:118:y:2003:i:3:p:1049-1074.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1162/00335530360698496
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-864, October.
    2. Claudia Goldin, 1995. "Career and Family: College Women Look to the Past," NBER Working Papers 5188, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Brown, Charles & Corcoran, Mary, 1997. "Sex-Based Differences in School Content and the Male-Female Wage Gap," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(3), pages 431-465, July.
    4. Andrew Schotter & Keith Weigelt, 1992. "Asymmetric Tournaments, Equal Opportunity Laws, and Affirmative Action: Some Experimental Results," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 511-539.
    5. Huberman, G. & Rubinstein, A., 2000. "Correct Belief, Wrong Action and a Puzzling Gender Difference," Papers 2000-17, Tel Aviv.
    6. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 2008. "Differences in the Economic Decisions of Men and Women: Experimental Evidence," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
    7. David Neumark & Harry Holzer, 2000. "Assessing Affirmative Action," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(3), pages 483-568, September.
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