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How Costly is Diversity? Affirmative Action in Light of Gender Differences in Competitiveness

Recent research documents that while men are eager to compete, women often shy away from competitive environments. A consequence is that few women enter and win competitions. Using experimental methods we examine how affirmative action affects competitive entry. We find that when women are guaranteed equal representation among winners, more women and fewer men enter competitions, and the response exceeds that predicted by changes in the probability of winning. An explanation for this response is that under affirmative action the probability of winning depends not only on one's rank relative to other group members, but also on one's rank within gender. Both beliefs on rank and attitudes towards competition change when moving to a more gender-specific competition. The changes in competitive entry have important implications when assessing the costs of affirmative action. Based on ex-ante tournament entry affirmative action is predicted to lower the performance requirement for women and thus result in reverse discrimination towards men. Interestingly this need not be the outcome when competitive entry is not payoff maximizing. The response in entry implies that it may not be necessary to lower the performance requirement for women to achieve a more diverse set of winners.

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Paper provided by University of Pittsburgh, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 342.

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Date of creation: Mar 2008
Date of revision: Mar 2008
Handle: RePEc:pit:wpaper:342
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  1. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 2008. "Men, Women and Risk Aversion: Experimental Evidence," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
  2. Sandra E. Black & Philip E. Strahan, 2001. "The Division of Spoils: Rent-Sharing and Discrimination in a Regulated Industry," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 814-831, September.
  3. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 2008. "Differences in the Economic Decisions of Men and Women: Experimental Evidence," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
  4. David Card & Alan B. Krueger, 2005. "Would the Elimination of Affirmative Action Affect Highly Qualified Minority Applicants? Evidence from California and Texas," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 58(3), pages 416-434, April.
  5. 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.
  6. Roland G. Fryer, Jr. & Glenn C. Loury, 2005. "Affirmative Action and Its Mythology," NBER Working Papers 11464, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Joseph G. Altonji & Rebecca M. Blank, . "Race and Gender in the Labor Market," IPR working papers 98-18, Institute for Policy Resarch at Northwestern University.
  8. 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.
  9. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  10. Long, M.C.Mark C., 2004. "College applications and the effect of affirmative action," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 319-342.
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