Panel Paper: Gender Differences in Competition: Evidence from US Congressional Elections

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Madison A - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Daniel B. Jones, University of Pittsburgh

Laboratory experiments have documented gender differences in response to competition. These experiments find that women, in some cases, opt out of participating in a competitive environment if given the opportunity; conditional on participating, women's performance suffers in a more competitive environment even if their ability is the same or higher than men they compete against. This paper sets out to test whether these same patterns occur in a high stakes setting outside of the lab: US Congressional Elections. We take advantage of shocks to the competitiveness of congressional districts stemming from once-a-decade redistricting. We find that when a congressional district becomes more competitive, female candidates are less likely to run. Conditional on running, women running in districts that have just become more competitive receive lower vote shares. Male candidates are unresponsive to changes in competition. These patterns mirror the laboratory findings, and also speak to one potential driver of the dramatic underrepresentation of women in Congress.