NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Do Women Shy Away From Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?

Muriel Niederle, Lise Vesterlund

NBER Working Paper No. 11474
Issued in July 2005
NBER Program(s):   LS

Competitive high ranking positions are largely occupied by men, and women remain scarce in engineering and sciences. Explanations for these occupational differences focus on discrimination and preferences for work hours and field of study. We examine if absent these factors gender differences in occupations may still occur. Specifically we explore whether women and men, on a leveled playing field, differ in their selection into competitive environments. Men and women in a laboratory experiment perform a real task under a non-competitive piece rate and a competitive tournament scheme. Although there are no gender differences in performance under either compensation, there is a substantial gender difference when participants subsequently choose the scheme they want to apply to their next performance. Twice as many men as women choose the tournament over the piece rate. This gender gap in tournament entry is not explained by performance either before or after the entry decision. Furthermore, while men are more optimistic about their relative performance, differences in beliefs only explain a small share of the gap in tournament entry. In a final task we assess the impact of non-tournament-specific factors, such as risk and feedback aversion, on the gender difference in compensation choice. We conclude that even controlling for these general factors, there is a large residual gender gap in tournament entry.

download in pdf format
   (344 K)

email paper

A non-technical summary of this paper is available in the February 2006 NBER digest.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Digest by email.

This paper is available as PDF (344 K) or via email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w11474

Published: Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2007. "Do Women Shy Away from Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1067-1101, 08. citation courtesy of

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Gneezy, Leonard, and List w13727 Gender Differences in Competition: Evidence from a Matrilineal and a Patriarchal Society
Niederle, Segal, and Vesterlund w13923 How Costly is Diversity? Affirmative Action in Light of Gender Differences in Competitiveness
Flory, Leibbrandt, and List w16546 Do Competitive Work Places Deter Female Workers? A Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment on Gender Differences in Job-Entry Decisions
Blau and Kahn w7732 Gender Differences in Pay
Niederle and Yestrumskas w13922 Gender Differences in Seeking Challenges: The Role of Institutions
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Data
People
About

Support
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us