Gender and Competition

Posted: 31 Aug 2011

See all articles by Muriel Niederle

Muriel Niederle

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

Lise Vesterlund

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Economics

Date Written: September 2011


Laboratory studies have documented that women often respond less favorably to competition than men. Conditional on performance, men are often more eager to compete, and the performance of men tends to respond more positively to an increase in competition. This means that few women enter and win competitions. We review studies that examine the robustness of these differences as well the factors that may give rise to them. Both laboratory and field studies largely confirm these initial findings, showing that gender differences in competitiveness tend to result from differences in overconfidence and in attitudes toward competition. Gender differences in risk aversion, however, seem to play a smaller and less robust role. We conclude by asking what could and should be done to encourage qualified males and females to compete.

Suggested Citation

Niederle, Muriel and Vesterlund, Lise, Gender and Competition (September 2011). Annual Review of Economics, Vol. 3, pp. 601-630, 2011. Available at SSRN: or

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

Lise Vesterlund

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Economics ( email )

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


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