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Gender Differences in Competitive Orientations: Empirical Evidence from Ultramarathon Running


  • Bernd Frick

    (Department of Management, University of Paderborn, Paderborn, Germany, Institute for Labour Law and Industrial Relations in the European Community, University of Trier, Trier, Germany, Institute of Labor and Personnel Economics, Mobile Life Campus, Wolfsburg, Germany,


A large body of literature documents the existence of a considerable and persistent gender gap in competitiveness. Using longitudinal data from ultramarathon running covering the period 2005-2009, I first confirm the findings of most previous studies by demonstrating that on average the women’s races are indeed less competitive than the men’s contests. Closer inspection of the data, however, reveals that the gender gap has considerably narrowed over the years. Moreover, for men as well as for women, an increase in the number of contestants is not only associated with a better average performance but also with a lower performance dispersion. 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 sociocultural 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Bernd Frick, 2011. "Gender Differences in Competitive Orientations: Empirical Evidence from Ultramarathon Running," Journal of Sports Economics, , vol. 12(3), pages 317-340, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:jospec:v:12:y:2011:i:3:p:317-340

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    Cited by:

    1. Filippin, A. & van Ours, J.C., 2012. "Run For Fun : Intrinsic Motivation and Physical Performance," Other publications TiSEM 752185ae-01f1-4005-9180-0, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    2. Clifford C. Henson & Paul R. Dorasil, 2014. "Judging Bias In Competitive Academic Debate: The Effects Of Region, Side, And Sex," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 32(2), pages 420-434, April.
    3. Ewa Malchrowicz-Mośko & Maciej Młodzik & Patxi León-Guereño & Katarzyna Adamczewska, 2019. "Male and Female Motivations for Participating in a Mass Cycling Race for Amateurs. The Skoda Bike Challenge Case Study," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(23), pages 1-13, November.
    4. Jeworrek, Sabrina, 2019. "Gender stereotypes still in MIND: Information on relative performance and competition entry," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 82(C).
    5. Antonio FILIPPIN & Jan C. VAN OURS, 2012. "Run for fun: intrinsic motivation and physical performance," Departmental Working Papers 2012-03, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
    6. 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.
    7. Schreck, Philipp, 2015. "Honesty in managerial reporting: How competition affects the benefits and costs of lying," CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES ON ACCOUNTING, Elsevier, vol. 27(C), pages 177-188.
    8. María Cubel & Santiago Sanchez-Pages, 2014. "Gender differences and stereotypes in the beauty contest," Working Papers 2014/13, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. Jamie Emerson & Brian Hill, 2017. "Elite marathon runners: do East Africans utilize different strategies than the rest of the world?," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 37(3), pages 1851-1860.


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