IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Outrunning the Gender Gap – Boys and Girls Compete Equally


  • Dreber, Anna

    () (Institute for Financial Research)

  • von Essen, Emma

    () (Stockholm University)

  • Ranehill, Eva

    () (Stockholm School of Economics)


Recent studies find that women are less competitive than men. This gender difference in competitiveness has been suggested as a possible explanation for why men occupy the majority of top positions in many sectors. In this study we explore competitiveness in children. A related field experiment on Israeli children shows that only boys react to competition by running faster when competing in a race and that only girls react to the gender of their opponent. Here we test if these results carry over to 7-10 year old Swedish children. Sweden is typically ranked among the most gender equal countries in the world, thus culture could explain a potential difference in our results to those on Israeli children. We also introduce two more “female” sports: skipping rope and dancing, in order to study if reaction to competition is task dependent. Our results extend previous findings in two ways. First, we find no gender difference in reaction to competition in running. In our study, both boys and girls compete. We also find no gender differences in reaction to competition in skipping rope and dancing. Second, we find no clear effect on competitiveness of the opponent’s gender, neither on girls or boys, in any of the tasks. Our findings suggest that the existence of a gender gap in competitiveness among children may be partly cultural, and that the gap found in previous studies on adults may be caused by factors that emerge later in life. It remains to be explored whether these later factors are biological or cultural.

Suggested Citation

  • Dreber, Anna & von Essen, Emma & Ranehill, Eva, 2009. "Outrunning the Gender Gap – Boys and Girls Compete Equally," SIFR Research Report Series 69, Institute for Financial Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:sifrwp:0069

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Chen, Yan & Katuščák, Peter & Ozdenoren, Emre, 2013. "Why canʼt a woman bid more like a man?," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 181-213.
    2. Sutter, Matthias & Glätzle-Rützler, Daniela, 2010. "Gender Differences in Competition Emerge Early in Life," IZA Discussion Papers 5015, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Raquel Fernández & Alessandra Fogli, 2006. "Fertility: The Role of Culture and Family Experience," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 4(2-3), pages 552-561, 04-05.
    4. Günther, Christina & Ekinci, Neslihan Arslan & Schwieren, Christiane & Strobel, Martin, 2010. "Women can't jump?--An experiment on competitive attitudes and stereotype threat," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 75(3), pages 395-401, September.
    5. Uri Gneezy & Kenneth L. Leonard & John A. List, 2009. "Gender Differences in Competition: Evidence From a Matrilineal and a Patriarchal Society," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(5), pages 1637-1664, September.
    6. Nabanita Datta Gupta & Anders Poulsen & Marie Claire Villeval, 2005. "Male and Female Competitive Behavior - Experimental Evidence," Post-Print halshs-00180022, HAL.
    7. Balafoutas, Loukas & Sutter, Matthias, 2010. "Gender, Competition and the Efficiency of Policy Interventions," IZA Discussion Papers 4955, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Christopher Cotton & Frank McIntyre & Joseph Price, 2009. "Gender Differences Disappear with Exposure to Competition," Working Papers 2010-11, University of Miami, Department of Economics.
    9. Pearson, Matthew & Schipper, Burkhard C., 2013. "Menstrual cycle and competitive bidding," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 1-20.
    10. Cárdenas, Juan-Camilo & Dreber, Anna & von Essen, Emma & Ranehill, Eva, 2012. "Gender differences in competitiveness and risk taking: Comparing children in Colombia and Sweden," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 11-23.
    11. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2007. "Do Women Shy Away From Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1067-1101.
    12. Muriel Niederle & Alexandra H. Yestrumskas, 2008. "Gender Differences in Seeking Challenges: The Role of Institutions," NBER Working Papers 13922, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Muriel Niederle & Carmit Segal & Lise Vesterlund, 2013. "How Costly Is Diversity? Affirmative Action in Light of Gender Differences in Competitiveness," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 59(1), pages 1-16, May.
    14. Nabanita Datta Gupta & Anders Poulsen & Marie Claire Villeval, 2005. "Male and Female Competitive Behavior: Experimental," Post-Print halshs-00175039, HAL.
    15. Uri Gneezy & Muriel Niederle & Aldo Rustichini, 2003. "Performance in Competitive Environments: Gender Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1049-1074.
    16. Uri Gneezy & Aldo Rustichini, 2004. "Gender and Competition at a Young Age," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 377-381, May.
    17. Thomas Buser, 2009. "The Impact of Female Sex Hormones on Competitiveness," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 09-082/3, Tinbergen Institute.
    18. Wozniak, David, 2009. "Choices About Competition: Differences by gender and hormonal fluctuations, and the role of relative performance feedback," MPRA Paper 21097, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    competitiveness; gender differences; field experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:
    1. Economic Logic blog


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hhs:sifrwp:0069. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Anki Helmer). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.