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Gender, Competitiveness, and Career Choices

Listed author(s):
  • Thomas Buser
  • Muriel Niederle
  • Hessel Oosterbeek

Gender differences in competitiveness have been hypothesized as a potential explanation for gender differences in education and labor market outcomes. We examine the predictive power of a standard laboratory experimental measure of competitiveness for the later important choice of academic track of secondary school students in the Netherlands. Although boys and girls display similar levels of academic ability, boys choose substantially more prestigious academic tracks, where more prestigious tracks are more math- and science-intensive. Our experimental measure shows that boys are also substantially more competitive than girls. We find that competitiveness is strongly positively correlated with choosing more prestigious academic tracks even conditional on academic ability. Most important, we find that the gender difference in competitiveness accounts for a substantial portion (about 20%) of the gender difference in track choice. JEL Codes: C9, I20, J24, J16.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/qje/qju009
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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 129 (2014)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 1409-1447

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Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:129:y:2014:i:3:p:1409-1447
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  1. Jan-Erik Lönnqvist & Markku Verkasalo & Gari Walkowitz & Philipp C. Wichardt, 2011. "Measuring Individual Risk Attitudes in the Lab: Task or Ask?: An Empirical Comparison," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 370, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  2. Sutter, Matthias & Glätzle-Rützler, Daniela, 2010. "Gender Differences in Competition Emerge Early in Life," IZA Discussion Papers 5015, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  11. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2007. "Do Women Shy Away From Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1067-1101.
  12. Thomas S. Dee, 2007. "Teachers and the Gender Gaps in Student Achievement," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(3).
  13. Carmit Segal, 2012. "Working When No One Is Watching: Motivation, Test Scores, and Economic Success," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(8), pages 1438-1457, August.
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  15. Kristin Kleinjans, 2008. "Do Gender Differences in Preferences for Competition Matter for Occupational Expectations?," Economics Working Papers 2008-09, Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus University.
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  18. repec:dgr:uvatin:20090082 is not listed on IDEAS
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  20. Buser, Thomas, 2012. "The impact of the menstrual cycle and hormonal contraceptives on competitiveness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 1-10.
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