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Can Gender Differences in Distributional Preferences Explain Gender Gaps in Competition?


  • Mani, Subha

    () (Fordham University)

  • Dasgupta, Utteeyo

    () (Fordham University)

  • Sharma, Smriti

    () (UNU-WIDER)

  • Singhal, Saurabh

    () (UNU-WIDER)


We design an experiment to examine whether egalitarian preferences, and in particular, behindness aversion as well as preference for favorable inequality affect competitive choices differently among males and females. We find that selection into competitive environments is: (a) negatively related to egalitarian preferences, with smaller negative impacts of being egalitarian on females' choice of the tournament wage scheme, and (b) negatively associated with behindness aversion and positively related to preference for favorable inequality, with significant gender differences in the impact of these distributional preferences. Once we allow for the impact of distributional preferences, behavioral, personality, and socioeconomic characteristics to vary by gender, the pure gender effect is explained away. We find that gender gaps in distributional preferences along with selected personality traits are the most relevant explanations for gender differences in willingness to compete. This is an important result as these characteristics are per se malleable and amenable to policy interventions.

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  • Mani, Subha & Dasgupta, Utteeyo & Sharma, Smriti & Singhal, Saurabh, 2017. "Can Gender Differences in Distributional Preferences Explain Gender Gaps in Competition?," IZA Discussion Papers 10627, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10627

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    competitiveness; distributional preferences; gender differences;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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