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Are gender differences in performance innate or socially mediated ?

Author

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  • Benyishay,Ariel
  • Jones,Maria Ruth
  • Kondylis,Florence
  • Mobarak,Ahmed Mushfiq

Abstract

To explain persistent gender gaps in market outcomes, a lab experimental literature explores whether women and men have innate differences in ability (or attitudes or preferences), and a separate field-based literature studies discrimination against women in market settings. This paper posits that even if women have comparable innate ability, their relative performance may suffer in the market if the task requires them to interact with others in society, and they are subject to discrimination in those interactions. The paper tests these ideas using a large-scale field experiment in 142 Malawian villages where men or women were randomly assigned the task of learning about a new agricultural technology, and then communicating it to others to convince them to adopt it. Although female communicators learn and retain the new information just as well, and those taught by women experience higher farm yields, the women are not as successful at teaching or convincing others to adopt the new technology. Micro-data on individual interactions from 4,000 farmers in these villages suggest that other farmers perceive female communicators to be less able, and are less receptive to the women's messages. Relatively small incentives for rewards undo the disparity in performance by encouraging added interactions, improving farmers'accuracy about female communicators'relative skill.

Suggested Citation

  • Benyishay,Ariel & Jones,Maria Ruth & Kondylis,Florence & Mobarak,Ahmed Mushfiq, 2016. "Are gender differences in performance innate or socially mediated ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7689, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:7689
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Esther Duflo, 2012. "Women Empowerment and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(4), pages 1051-1079, December.
    2. Uri Gneezy & Kenneth L. Leonard & John A. List, 2009. "Gender Differences in Competition: Evidence From a Matrilineal and a Patriarchal Society," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(5), pages 1637-1664, September.
    3. Josse Delfgaauw & Robert Dur & Joeri Sol & Willem Verbeke, 2013. "Tournament Incentives in the Field: Gender Differences in the Workplace," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(2), pages 305-326.
    4. Timothy G. Conley & Christopher R. Udry, 2010. "Learning about a New Technology: Pineapple in Ghana," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 35-69, March.
    5. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2000. "Gender Differences in Pay," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 75-99, Fall.
    6. Marianne Bertrand & Emir Kamenica & Jessica Pan, 2015. "Gender Identity and Relative Income within Households," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(2), pages 571-614.
    7. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2007. "Do Women Shy Away From Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1067-1101.
    8. Manuel F. Bagues & Berta Esteve-Volart, 2010. "Can Gender Parity Break the Glass Ceiling? Evidence from a Repeated Randomized Experiment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 77(4), pages 1301-1328.
    9. Kondylis, Florence & Mueller, Valerie & Zhu, Jessica, 2017. "Seeing is believing? Evidence from an extension network experiment," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 125(C), pages 1-20.
    10. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 991-1013, September.
    11. Cecilia Rouse & Claudia Goldin, 2000. "Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of "Blind" Auditions on Female Musicians," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 715-741, September.
    12. Seema Jayachandran, 2015. "The Roots of Gender Inequality in Developing Countries," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 7(1), pages 63-88, August.
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    14. Petit, Pascale, 2007. "The effects of age and family constraints on gender hiring discrimination: A field experiment in the French financial sector," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 371-391, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo, 2016. "Field Experiments on Discrimination," NBER Working Papers 22014, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Margherita Calderone, 2017. "Are there different spillover effects from cash transfers to men and women? Impacts on investments in education in post-war Uganda," WIDER Working Paper Series 093, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

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    Keywords

    Climate Change and Agriculture;

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