Which Explanations for Gender Differences in Competition are Consistent with a Simple Theoretical Model?
21 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2015
Date Written: January 27, 2015
A number of recent studies show that males may increase their performance by more than females in response to competitive incentives. The literature suggests that such a male competitive advantage may contribute to observed gender gaps in the labor force pay and achievement. Understanding which factors may be driving these gender differences is essential for designing policies that promote equality. Using a game theoretic model of contests, we consider a variety of explanations for the male competitive advantage that have been proposed in the empirical and experimental literature. Comparing the testable predictions of the model with the empirical evidence from past papers, we reject explanations involving male overconfidence, misperceptions about relative ability, and some types of preference differences. An explanation involving female under confidence is consistent with only some of the evidence. The three explanations most consistent with the data include: (i) males are better than females at handle competitive pressure, (ii) males enjoy competition more than females, and (iii) males are less risk averse than females.
Keywords: gender differences in competition, contest theory, effort and productivity
JEL Classification: D74, J16, J24, J78
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation