Gender Differences in Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Competitive Behavior

25 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2017

See all articles by Jeffrey P. Carpenter

Jeffrey P. Carpenter

Middlebury College - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Rachel Frank

Yale University, Law School, Students

Emiliano Huet-Vaughn



Gender differences in competitive behavior have been well documented by economists and other social scientists; however, the bulk of the research addresses competition with others and excludes other economically relevant competition that may contribute to the gender pay gap. In this paper, we ask: How does gender affect how individuals react to competition against themselves? In a laboratory experiment in which some subjects compete against others and some compete against themselves, we find women select into intrapersonal competition at significantly higher rates than interpersonal competition, the first such findings. We find perseverance or "grit" to be a poor predictor of interpersonal competition selection, but find familial effects such as parent's education and number of brothers to be correlated with competition selection.

Keywords: gender, competition, tournament, real effort, labor

JEL Classification: C92, J16, M52

Suggested Citation

Carpenter, Jeffrey P. and Frank, Rachel and Huet-Vaughn, Emiliano, Gender Differences in Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Competitive Behavior. IZA Discussion Paper No. 10626, Available at SSRN:

Jeffrey P. Carpenter (Contact Author)

Middlebury College - Department of Economics ( email )

Munroe Hall
Middlebury, VT 05753
United States
802-443-3241 (Phone)
802-443-2084 (Fax)


IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

Rachel Frank

Yale University, Law School, Students ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

Emiliano Huet-Vaughn

UCLA ( email )

4284 School of Public Affairs
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

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