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Gender Differences and Dynamics in Competition: The Role of Luck

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  • David Gill
  • Victoria Prowse

Abstract

We present experimental evidence which sheds new light on why women may be less competitive than men. Specifically, we observe striking differences in how men and women respond to good and bad luck in a competitive environment. Following a loss, women tend to reduce effort, and the effect is independent of the monetary value of the prize that the women failed to win. Men, on the other hand, reduce effort only after failing to win large prizes. Responses to previous competitve outcomes explain about 11% of the variation that we observe in women's efforts, but only about 4% of the variation in the effort of men, and differential responses to luck account for about half of the gender performance gap in our experiment. These findings help to explain both female underperformance in environments with repeated competition and the tendency for women to select into tournaments at a lower rate than men.

Suggested Citation

  • David Gill & Victoria Prowse, 2011. "Gender Differences and Dynamics in Competition: The Role of Luck," Economics Series Working Papers 564, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:564
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-864, October.
    2. Cason, Timothy N. & Masters, William A. & Sheremeta, Roman M., 2010. "Entry into winner-take-all and proportional-prize contests: An experimental study," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(9-10), pages 604-611, October.
    3. Charness, Gary & Kuhn, Peter, 2011. "Lab Labor: What Can Labor Economists Learn from the Lab?," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 3, pages 229-330, Elsevier.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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