NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Gender, Competitiveness and Career Choices

Thomas Buser, Muriel Niederle, Hessel Oosterbeek

NBER Working Paper No. 18576
Issued in November 2012
NBER Program(s):   CH   ED   LS

Gender differences in competitiveness are often discussed as a potential explanation for gender differences in education and labor market outcomes. We correlate an incentivized measure of competitiveness with an important career choice of secondary school students in the Netherlands. At the age of 15, these students have to pick one out of four study profiles, which vary in how prestigious they are. While boys and girls have very similar levels of academic ability, boys are substantially more likely than girls to choose more prestigious profiles. We find that competitiveness is as important a predictor of profile choice as gender. More importantly, up to 23 percent of the gender difference in profile choice can be attributed to gender differences in competitiveness. This lends support to the extrapolation of laboratory findings on competitiveness to labor market settings.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18576

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