Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance,
Stockholm School of Economics

No 709: Outrunning the Gender Gap – Boys and Girls Compete Equally

Anna Dreber (), Emma von Essen () and Eva Ranehill ()
Additional contact information
Anna Dreber: SIFR, Postal: Institute for Financial Research, Drottninggatan 89, SE-113 60 Stockholm, Sweden
Emma von Essen: Department of Economics, Postal: Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Eva Ranehill: Dept. of Economics, Stockholm School of Economics, Postal: Stockholm School of Economics, P.O. Box 6501, SE-113 83 Stockholm, Sweden

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 culture 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. If gender equality matters for competitiveness, this result may be explained by cultural factors, since Sweden scores higher on gender equality indices than Israel.

Keywords: competitiveness; gender differences; field experiment

JEL-codes: C93; D03; J16

17 pages, First version: January 29, 2009. Revised: March 25, 2011. Earlier revisions: October 16, 2009, October 16, 2009, November 3, 2009, March 1, 2010, March 1, 2010, June 16, 2010, June 16, 2010.

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