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The Impact of Female Sex Hormones on Competitiveness

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  • Thomas Buser

    (University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands)

Abstract

We use fluctuations of female sex hormones occurring naturally over the menstrual cycle or induced by hormonal contraceptives to determine the importance of sex hormones in explaining gender differences in competitiveness. Participants in a laboratory experiment solve a simple arithmetics task first under a piece rate and then under a competitive tournament scheme. Subjects can then choose which compensation scheme to apply in a third round. We find that sex hormones have a strong effect on whether women select into the competitive environment. The observed patterns are consistent with a negative impact especially of progesterone on competitiveness and our results therefore provide a partial biological explanation for gender differences in competitiveness. We consider three possible indirect pathways through which sex hormones could affect competitiveness: via an impact on risk aversion, via an impact on performance, and via an impact on overconfidence. None of these hold up to the data and we conclude that sex hormones have a more direct impact on competitiveness.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Buser, 2009. "The Impact of Female Sex Hormones on Competitiveness," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 09-082/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:tin:wpaper:20090082
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    File URL: https://papers.tinbergen.nl/09082.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    13. Thomas Buser, 2011. "Hormones and Social Preferences," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 11-046/3, Tinbergen Institute.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. De man die vrouwen begrijpt
      by Eva van den Broek in Science Palooza on 2009-10-25 17:00:00

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Balafoutas, Loukas & Kerschbamer, Rudolf & Sutter, Matthias, 2012. "Distributional preferences and competitive behavior," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 125-135.
    3. Migheli, Matteo, 2010. "Gender at Work: Productivity and Incentives," AICCON Working Papers 74-2010, Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit.
    4. Anna Dreber & Emma Essen & Eva Ranehill, 2011. "Outrunning the gender gap—boys and girls compete equally," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 14(4), pages 567-582, November.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    competitiveness; gender differences; hormones; lab experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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