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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.

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Paper provided by Institute for Financial Research in its series SIFR Research Report Series with number 69.

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Length: 18 pages
Date of creation: 15 Oct 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:sifrwp:0069
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  1. Nabanita Datta Gupta & Anders Poulsen & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2005. "Male and Female Competitive Behavior - Experimental Evidence," Post-Print halshs-00180022, HAL.
  2. 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.
  3. Loukas Balafoutas & Matthias Sutter, 2010. "Gender, competition and the efficiency of policy interventions," Working Papers 2010-12, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
  4. Raquel Fernández & Alessandra Fogli, 2005. "Fertility: The Role of Culture and Family Experience," NBER Working Papers 11569, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Lise Vesterlund, 2008. "How Costly is Diversity? Affirmative Action in Light of Gender Differences in Competitiveness," Working Papers 342, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Economics, revised Mar 2008.
  6. Joseph Price, 2008. "Gender Differences in the Response to Competition," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 61(3), pages 320-333, April.
  7. Aldo Rustichini & Uri Gneezy, 2004. "Gender and competition at a young age," Framed Field Experiments 00151, The Field Experiments Website.
  8. 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.
  9. Yan Chen & Peter Katuscak & Emre Ozdenoren, 2005. "Why Can’t a Woman Bid More Like a Man?," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp275, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
  10. 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, 09.
  11. Uri Gneezy & Muriel Niederle & Aldo Rustichini, 2003. "Performance In Competitive Environments: Gender Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1049-1074, August.
  12. Nabanita Datta Gupta & Anders Poulsen & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2005. "Male and Female Competitive Behavior: Experimental," Post-Print halshs-00175039, HAL.
  13. Matthias Sutter & Daniela R?tzler, 2010. "Gender differences in competition emerge early in life," Working Papers 2010-14, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
  14. Christopher Cotton & Frank McIntyre & Joseph Price, 2009. "Gender Differences Disappear with Exposure to Competition," Working Papers 2010-11, University of Miami, Department of Economics.
  15. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2005. "Do Women Shy Away From Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?," NBER Working Papers 11474, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Pearson, Matthew & Schipper, Burkhard C, 2009. "Menstrual cycle and competitive bidding," MPRA Paper 16784, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  17. Thomas Buser, 2009. "The Impact of Female Sex Hormones on Competitiveness," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 09-082/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
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