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The State Street Mile: Age and Gender Differences in Competition-Aversion in the Field

  • Garratt, Rod
  • Weinberger, Catherine J
  • Johnson, Nicholas

Gender differences in "competitiveness," previously documented in laboratory experiments, are hypothesized to play a role in a wide array of economic outcomes. The current paper provides evidence of competition-aversion in a natural setting somewhere between the simplicity of a laboratory experiment and the full complexity and ambiguity of a labor market. The "State Street Mile" race offers both male and female participants a choice between two different levels of competition. Large, systematic age and gender differences are observed in the relationship between true ability and the decision to enter the more competitive race. Overall, qualified women and older runners are far less likely than qualified young men to enter a competitive race with cash prizes. However, the fastest young women unanimously enter the competitive race. Therefore, while we confirm age and gender differences in competitiveness in our field setting, the economic consequences to capable young women are rather small.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara in its series University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series with number qt68b2q5p4.

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Date of creation: 01 Mar 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt68b2q5p4
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  1. Gary Charness & Luca Rigotti & Aldo Rustichini, 2007. "Individual Behavior and Group Membership," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(4), pages 1340-1352, September.
  2. John List & Kenneth Leonard & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Gender differences in competition: Evidence from a matrilineal and a patriarchal society," Artefactual Field Experiments 00049, The Field Experiments Website.
  3. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2008. "Forecasting Risk Attitudes: An Experimental Study Using Actual and Forecast Gamble Choices," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-01, Monash University, Department of Economics.
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