Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Discussion Paper Series in Economics,
Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Economics

No 3/2014: Willingness to Compete: Family Matters.

Ingvild Almås (), Alexander W. Cappelen (), Kjell G. Salvanes (), Erik Ø. Sørensen () and Bertil Tungodden ()
Additional contact information
Ingvild Almås: Dept. of Economics, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Postal: NHH , Department of Economics, Helleveien 30, N-5045 Bergen, Norway
Alexander W. Cappelen: Dept. of Economics, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Postal: NHH , Department of Economics, Helleveien 30, N-5045 Bergen, Norway
Kjell G. Salvanes: Dept. of Economics, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Postal: NHH , Department of Economics, Helleveien 30, N-5045 Bergen, Norway
Erik Ø. Sørensen: Dept. of Economics, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Postal: NHH , Department of Economics, Helleveien 30, N-5045 Bergen, Norway
Bertil Tungodden: Dept. of Economics, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Postal: NHH , Department of Economics, Helleveien 30, N-5045 Bergen, Norway

Abstract: This paper studies the role of family background in explaining differences in the willingness to compete. By combining data from a lab experiment conducted with a representative sample of adolescents in Norway and high quality register data on family background, we show that family background is fundamental in two important ways. First, boys from low socioeconomic status families are less willing to compete than boys from better off families, even when controlling for confidence, performance, risk preferences, time preferences, social preferences, and psychological traits. Second, family background is crucial for understanding the large gender difference in the willingness to compete. Girls are much less willing to compete than boys among children from better off families, whereas we do not find any gender difference in willingness to compete among children from low socioeconomic status families. Our data suggest that the main mechanism explaining the role of family background is that the father’s socioeconomic status has a large effect on the boys’ willingness to compete, but no effect on the girls. We do not find any effect on the willingness to compete for boys or girls of the mother’s socioeconomic status or other family characteristic that may potentially shape competition preferences, including parental equality and sibling rivalry.

Keywords: Family background; socioeconomic status; lab experiment.

JEL-codes: C91; C92; D63

39 pages, February 11, 2014

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