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Heterogeneous gender effects under loss aversion in the economics classroom: A field experiment


  • Maria Apostolova-Mihaylova

    () (Economics Department, University of Mary Washington, 1004 College Avenue, Fredericksburg, VA 22401)

  • William Cooper

    () (Department of Economics, 206 Matthews Building, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0034, USA)

  • Gail Hoyt

    () (Department of Economics, 206D Matthews Building, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506)

  • Emily C. Marshall

    () (Department of Economics, Bates College and Department of Economics, 206 Matthews Building, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0034)


This article evaluates the impact of loss aversion as a behavioral motivator on students’ classroom performance. Conducting an experiment with University of Kentucky undergraduate students, the authors framed student grades as a loss and gain. In treatment sections, the students began with full marks and lost points as the semester progressed, whereas in control sections, under a traditional grading scheme, students accumulated points throughout the semester. We find that treated individuals, on average, do not have a statistically different final grade than individuals in the control class. However, we uncover a heterogeneous gender effect. On average, a male in the treatment class scores between 3.17 and 4.05 percentage points higher on the final grade than a male in the control class, ceteris paribus. Conversely, a female in the treatment class scores between 3.61 and 4.36 percentage points lower on the final grade than a comparable female in the control class.

Suggested Citation

  • Maria Apostolova-Mihaylova & William Cooper & Gail Hoyt & Emily C. Marshall, 2015. "Heterogeneous gender effects under loss aversion in the economics classroom: A field experiment," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 980-994, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:sej:ancoec:v:81:4:y:2015:p:980-994
    DOI: 10.1002/soej.12068

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    Cited by:

    1. Damgaard, Mette Trier & Nielsen, Helena Skyt, 2018. "Nudging in education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 313-342.
    2. Bao, Wei & Houser, Daniel & Rao, Yulei & Xiao, Erte, 2020. "Inertia in partnerships: The role of gender," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 196(C).
    3. David M McEvoy, 2016. "Loss Aversion and Student Achievement," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 36(3), pages 1762-1770.
    4. Wagner, Valentin, 2016. "Seeking risk or answering smart? Framing in elementary schools," DICE Discussion Papers 227, University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).
    5. Wagner, Valentin, 2016. "Seeking Risk or Answering Smart? Experimental Evidence on Framing Effects in Elementary Schools," VfS Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145678, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    6. Paula Pereda & Matsunaga, Diaz, Borges, Chalco, Rocha, Narita, Brenck, 2020. "Are women less persistent? Evidence from submissions to a nationwide meeting of Economics," Working Papers, Department of Economics 2020_19, University of São Paulo (FEA-USP).

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    JEL classification:

    • A - General Economics and Teaching


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