Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: Gender Response to Competitive Outcomes

Thursday, November 12, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

June Park John, Stanford University
Although there has been progress, gender gaps persist across a variety of competitive contexts. Males are found to be more competitive than females under laboratory and field settings. This project focuses on the differential responses to competitive outcomes by gender, which has important implications for future educational attainment and occupational choices. I will present experimental evidence from a study conducted in secondary schools in Malaysia in July 2015. The setting provides several unique features, given that gender gaps in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math are less severe than in most Western countries, where much of the current research is situated. However, it is unclear whether this would be correlated to differences in competitiveness between genders.

The study will measure the level of competitiveness and related variables such as ability, confidence levels, and risk attitudes between genders. The measure of competitiveness comes from a robust laboratory design from Niederle & Vesterlund (2007) which consists of multiple stages of a simple math test. Subjects take a test which is paid according to a piece-rate system. Then, they take a similar test in which the payment is a tournament style winner-take-all system. Next, they choose which payment system they would like in the third round of the test, which provides the measure of competitiveness net of the previously mentioned related variables.

I introduce an exogenous variation to the standard competition study procedure after this stage to measure the effect of the level of competition on performance during competition. Students in the class are matched against a group of students from another class which is ranked higher or lower than their class, based on Malaysia’s system of ranking students into different classes. In this fourth stage, subjects face competitors of different academic abilities than themselves. I measure the difference in effort and performance compared with when competing against their own classmates.

The study results will provide guidance on possible factors related to competitiveness that may play a role in choices to enter into competitive environments, such as academic tracks or types of occupations.