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Brave Boys and Play-it-Safe Girls: Gender Differences in Willingness to Guess in a Large Scale Natural Field Experiment

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  • Iriberri, Nagore
  • Rey Biel, Pedro

Abstract

We study gender differences in willingness to guess using approximately 10,000 multiple-choice math tests, where for half of the questions, both wrong answers and omitted questions are scored 0, and for the other half, wrong answers are scored 0 but omitted questions are scored +1. Using a within-participant regression analysis, we find that female participants leave significantly more omitted questions than males when there is a reward for omitted questions. This gender difference, which is stronger among high ability and older participants, hurts female performance as measured by the final score and position in the ranking. In a subsequent survey, female participants showed lower levels of confidence and higher risk aversion, which may explain this differential behavior. When both are considered, risk aversion is the main factor explaining the gender differential in the willingness to guess. A scoring rule that is gender neutral must use non-differential scoring between wrong answers and omitted questions.

Suggested Citation

  • Iriberri, Nagore & Rey Biel, Pedro, 2019. "Brave Boys and Play-it-Safe Girls: Gender Differences in Willingness to Guess in a Large Scale Natural Field Experiment," CEPR Discussion Papers 13541, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:13541
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ş. Pelin Akyol & James Key & Kala Krishna, 2016. "Hit or Miss? Test Taking Behavior in Multiple Choice Exams," NBER Working Papers 22401, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Brad M. Barber & Terrance Odean, 2001. "Boys will be Boys: Gender, Overconfidence, and Common Stock Investment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 261-292.
    3. María Paz Espinosa & Javier Gardeazabal, 2013. "Do Students Behave Rationally in Multiple Choice Tests? Evidence from a Field Experiment," Journal of Economics and Management, College of Business, Feng Chia University, Taiwan, vol. 9(2), pages 107-135, July.
    4. Funk, Patricia & Perrone, Helena, 2016. "Gender Differences in Academic Performance: The Role of Negative Marking in Multiple-Choice Exams," CEPR Discussion Papers 11716, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Katherine Baldiga, 2014. "Gender Differences in Willingness to Guess," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 60(2), pages 434-448, February.
    6. Rachel Croson & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Gender Differences in Preferences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(2), pages 448-474, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    confidence; gender differences; natural field experiment; perceived ability in math; risk preferences; willingness to guess;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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