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Gender Differences in Performance in Competitive Environments: Evidence from Professional Tennis Players

  • Paserman, M. Daniele

    ()

    (Boston University)

This paper uses data from nine tennis Grand Slam tournaments played between 2005 and 2007 to assess whether men and women respond differently to competitive pressure in a setting with large monetary rewards. In particular, it asks whether the quality of the game deteriorates as the stakes become higher. The paper conducts two parallel analyses, one based on aggregate set-level data, and one based on detailed point-by-point data, which is available for a selected subsample of matches in four of the nine tournaments under examination. The set-level analysis indicates that both men and women perform less well in the final and decisive set of the match. This result is robust to controls for the length of the match and to the inclusion of match and player-specific fixed effects. The drop in performance of women in the decisive set is slightly larger than that of men, but the difference is not statistically significant at conventional levels. On the other hand, the detailed point-by-point analysis reveals that, relative to men, women are substantially more likely to make unforced errors at crucial junctures of the match. Data on serve speed, on first serve percentages and on rally length suggest that women play a more conservative and less aggressive strategy as points become more important. I present a simple game-theoretic model that shows that a less aggressive strategy may be a player’s best response to an increase in the intrinsic probability of making unforced errors.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 2834.

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Length: 61 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2834
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  1. Dohmen, Thomas & Falk, Armin, 2006. "Performance Pay and Multi-dimensional Sorting: Productivity, Preferences and Gender," IZA Discussion Papers 2001, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Booth, Alison L. & Nolen, Patrick J., 2009. "Choosing to Compete: How Different Are Girls and Boys?," IZA Discussion Papers 4027, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Aldo Rustichini & Uri Gneezy, 2004. "Gender and competition at a young age," Framed Field Experiments 00151, The Field Experiments Website.
  4. Marianne Bertrand & Kevin F. Hallock, 2001. "The Gender gap in top corporate jobs," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 55(1), pages 3-21, October.
  5. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2005. "Do Women Shy Away from Competition? Do Men Compete too Much?," Discussion Papers 04-030, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  6. Dohmen, Thomas J., 2008. "Do professionals choke under pressure?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 65(3-4), pages 636-653, March.
  7. Victor Lavy, 2004. "Do Gender Stereotypes Reduce Girls' Human Capital Outcomes? Evidence from a Natural Experiment," NBER Working Papers 10678, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Sunde, Uwe, 2003. "Potential, Prizes and Performance: Testing Tournament Theory with Professional Tennis Data," IZA Discussion Papers 947, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Alan Manning & Farzad Saidi, 2008. "Understanding the gender pay gap: what's competition got to do with it?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 28510, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  10. Victor Lavy, 2013. "Gender Differences in Market Competitiveness in a Real Workplace: Evidence from Performance‐based Pay Tournaments among Teachers," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 123(569), pages 540-573, 06.
  11. Dan Ariely & Uri Gneezy & George Loewenstein & Nina Mazar, 2009. "Large Stakes and Big Mistakes," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(2), pages 451-469.
  12. Klaassen F. J G M & Magnus J. R., 2001. "Are Points in Tennis Independent and Identically Distributed? Evidence From a Dynamic Binary Panel Data Model," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 96, pages 500-509, June.
  13. Marianne Bertrand & Kevin F. Hallock, 2001. "The Gender Gap in Top Corporate Jobs," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 55(1), pages 3-21, October.
  14. 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.
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