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

43 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2008 Last revised: 19 Jul 2010

See all articles by Muriel Niederle

Muriel Niederle

Stanford University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Carmit Segal

Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Faculty of Economic and Business Sciences

Lise Vesterlund

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Economics

Date Written: April 2008

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Niederle, Muriel and Segal, Carmit and Vesterlund, Lise, How Costly is Diversity? Affirmative Action in Light of Gender Differences in Competitiveness (April 2008). NBER Working Paper No. w13923. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1116598

Muriel Niederle (Contact Author)

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Carmit Segal

Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Faculty of Economic and Business Sciences ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas 25-27
Barcelona, 08005
Spain

Lise Vesterlund

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Economics ( email )

4T18 WW Posvar. Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.econ.iastate.edu/faculty/vesterlund/

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