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Department of Economics, Stockholm University Research Papers in Economics, Department of Economics, Stockholm University

No 2009:17:
Outrunning the Gender Gap – Boys and Girls Compete Equally

Anna Dreber (), von Essen Emma () and Eva Ranehill ()

Abstract: Recent studies find that women are less competitive than men. This gender difference in competitiveness has been suggested as one possible explanation for why men occupy the majority of top positions in many sectors. In this study we explore competitiveness in children, with the premise that both context and gendered stereotypes regarding the task at hand may influence competitive behavior. A related field experiment on Israeli children shows that only boys react to competition by running faster when competing in a race. We here test if there is a gender gap in running among 7-10 year old Swedish children. We also introduce two female sports, skipping rope and dancing, to see if competitiveness is task dependent. We find no gender difference in reaction to competition in any task; boys and girls compete equally. Studies in different environments with different types of tasks are thus important in order to make generalizable claims about gender differences in competitiveness.

Keywords: competitiveness; gender differences; field experiment; (follow links to similar papers)

JEL-Codes: C93; D03; J16; (follow links to similar papers)

17 pages, October 19, 2009, Revised February 10, 2011

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