Do Women Fare Worse When Men are Around? Quasi-Experimental Evidence

43 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2024

See all articles by Marcela Gomez-Ruiz

Marcela Gomez-Ruiz

Autonomous University of Barcelona

María Cervini-Plá

University of Girona - Department of Economics

Xavier Ramos

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

Abstract

We investigate the impact of a change in the gender composition of the pool of candidates on the academic performance of women in an entrance exam. We use data from a natural experiment that altered the gender composition of the candidates for a nation-wide admission exam to a coding educational program. Our identification strategy exploits the fact that both men and women were accepted for the admission exam in all years except for 2019, when only women were allowed to take it. Our results reveal that in the absence of men, women exhibit enhanced performance, particularly in subjects where men do traditionally better, such as mathematics and logical reasoning. Conversely, we observe no significant effects in verbal tasks, where men do not typically outperform. The improvement in performance stems from both increased attempts at questions and a higher rate of correct answers. Women improve their academic performance by exerting greater effort when men are not present. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that the stereotype threat is deactivated in the absence of men, highlighting the nuanced impact of gender composition on women's performance in high-stakes exams.

Keywords: gender, performance, effort, stereotype threat, competition

JEL Classification: I20, I24, J16, J24

Suggested Citation

Gomez-Ruiz, Marcela and Cervini-Plá, María and Ramos, Xavier, Do Women Fare Worse When Men are Around? Quasi-Experimental Evidence. IZA Discussion Paper No. 16782, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4717695 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4717695

Marcela Gomez-Ruiz (Contact Author)

Autonomous University of Barcelona ( email )

Plaça Cívica
Cerdañola del Valles
Barcelona, 08193
Spain

María Cervini-Plá

University of Girona - Department of Economics ( email )

Campus de Montilivi
Girona, Girona 17071
Spain

Xavier Ramos

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona ( email )

Dept. Economia Aplicada
Campus UAB
Bellaterra, Barcelona 08193
Spain

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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