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Competitive Pressure Widens the Gender Gap in Performance: Evidence from a Two-Stage Competition in Mathematics


  • Iriberri, Nagore
  • Rey-Biel, Pedro


In two-stage elimination math contests participants from four different age groups compete to pass from stage 1 to stage 2 and later to be among the winners. Although female participants have higher Math grades at school the gender gap reverses in the two stages of the contests. More importantly, following the same individual participant across different stages, we find that the gender gap in performance increases from stage 1 to stage 2 of the competition. The increase in female underperformance is attributed to higher competitive pressure and alternative explanations based on selection, discrimination and differences in reaction to increasing difficulty are ruled out.

Suggested Citation

  • Iriberri, Nagore & Rey-Biel, Pedro, 2016. "Competitive Pressure Widens the Gender Gap in Performance: Evidence from a Two-Stage Competition in Mathematics," CEPR Discussion Papers 11493, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:11493

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Booth, Alison & Lee, Jungmin, 2021. "Girls’ and boys’ performance in competitions: What we can learn from a Korean quiz show," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 187(C), pages 431-447.
    2. Espinosa Maria Paz & Gardeazabal Javier, 2020. "The Gender-bias Effect of Test Scoring and Framing: A Concern for Personnel Selection and College Admission," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 20(3), pages 1-23, July.
    3. J. Ignacio Conde-Ruiz & Juan José Ganuza & Manuel García, 2020. "Gender Gap and Multiple Choice Exams in Public Selection Processes," Hacienda Pública Española / Review of Public Economics, IEF, vol. 235(4), pages 11-28, December.
    4. Dominique Cappelletti & Maria Vittoria Levati & Matteo Ploner, 2022. "Math ability, gender stereotypes about math ability, and educational choices. Combining experimental and survey data," Working Papers 07/2022, University of Verona, Department of Economics.
    5. Alison L. Booth & Patrick Nolen, 2022. "Gender and Psychological Pressure in Competitive Environments: A Laboratory‐based Experiment," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 89(S1), pages 71-85, June.
    6. Arenas, Andreu & Calsamiglia, Caterina, 2022. "Gender Differences in High-Stakes Performance and College Admission Policies," IZA Discussion Papers 15550, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    7. Thomas Buser & Roel van Veldhuizen & Yang Zhong, 2022. "Time Pressure Preferences," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 22-054/I, Tinbergen Institute.
    8. Balafoutas, Loukas & Sutter, Matthias, 2019. "How uncertainty and ambiguity in tournaments affect gender differences in competitive behavior," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 1-13.
    9. Hoyer, Britta & van Huizen, Thomas & Keijzer, Linda & Rezaei, Sarah & Rosenkranz, Stephanie & Westbrock, Bastian, 2020. "Gender, competitiveness, and task difficulty: Evidence from the field," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(C).
    10. Diogo Geraldes & Arno Riedl & Martin Strobel, 2020. "Gender Differences in Performance under Competition: Is There a Stereotype Threat Shadow?," CESifo Working Paper Series 8809, CESifo.
    11. Judith M. Delaney & Paul J. Devereux, 2021. "Gender and Educational Achievement: Stylized Facts and Causal Evidence," Working Papers 202103, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    12. Simone Balestra & Aurelien Sallin & Stefan C. Wolter, 2020. "High-Ability Influencers? The Heterogeneous Effects of Gifted Classmates," Economics of Education Working Paper Series 0170, University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration (IBW).
    13. Liwen Chen & Bobby Chung & Guanghua Wang, 2022. "Stay-at-Home Peer Mothers and Gender Norms: Short-run Effects on Educational Outcomes," Working Papers 2022-039, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    14. Iriberri, Nagore & Rey-Biel, Pedro, 2021. "Brave boys and play-it-safe girls: Gender differences in willingness to guess in a large scale natural field experiment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 131(C).
    15. Itzik Fadlon & Frederik Plesner Lyngse & Torben Heien Nielsen, 2022. "Causal Effects of Early Career Sorting on Labor and Marriage Market Choices: A Foundation for Gender Disparities and Norms," CEBI working paper series 22-06, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. The Center for Economic Behavior and Inequality (CEBI).
    16. Montolio, Daniel & Taberner, Pere A., 2021. "Gender differences under test pressure and their impact on academic performance: A quasi-experimental design," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 191(C), pages 1065-1090.
    17. Fumagalli, Elena & Fumagalli, Laura, 2022. "Subjective well-being and the gender composition of the reference group: Evidence from a survey experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 194(C), pages 196-219.
    18. Hou, Ting & Zhang, Wen, 2021. "Optimal two-stage elimination contests for crowdsourcing," Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, Elsevier, vol. 145(C).
    19. Pau Balart & Lara Ezquerra & Iñigo Hernandez-Arenaz, 2022. "Framing effects on risk-taking behavior: evidence from a field experiment in multiple-choice tests," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 25(4), pages 1268-1297, September.
    20. Brunello, Giorgio & Kiss, David, 2022. "Math scores in high stakes grades," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 87(C).
    21. Kevin Boudreau & Nilam Kaushik, 2020. "The Gender Gap in Tech & Competitive Work Environments? Field Experimental Evidence from an Internet-of-Things Product Development Platform," NBER Working Papers 27154, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    22. Geraldes, Diogo & Riedl, Arno & Strobel, Martin, 2021. "Gender Differences in Performance Under Competition:," Research Memorandum 002, Maastricht University, Graduate School of Business and Economics (GSBE).
    23. Almås, Ingvild & Berge, Lars Ivar & Bjorvatn, Kjetil & Somville, Vincent & Tungodden, Bertil, 2020. "Adverse selection into competition: Evidence from a large-scale field experiment in Tanzania," Discussion Paper Series in Economics 19/2020, Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Economics.
    24. Pilar Beneito & Inés Rosell, 2018. "Gender responses to competitive pressure in college: a regression discontinuity design," Discussion Papers in Economic Behaviour 0518, University of Valencia, ERI-CES.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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