Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Research Papers in Economics,
Stockholm University, Department of Economics

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

Anna Dreber (), von Essen Emma () and Eva Ranehill ()
Additional contact information
Anna Dreber: Institute for Financial Research (SIFR), Postal: Institute for Financial Research (SIFR) Drottninggatan 89, 113 60 Stockholm, Sweden, and , Women and Public Policy Program , Harvard Kennedy School
von Essen Emma: Dept. of Economics, Stockholm University, Postal: Department of Economics, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Eva Ranehill: Stockholm School of Economics, Postal: Department of Economics, Stockholm School of Economics, 113 63 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 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

JEL-codes: C93; D03; J16

17 pages, First version: October 19, 2009. Revised: February 10, 2011. Earlier revisions: March 1, 2010.

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wp09_17rev.pdf PDF-file 

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