Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Research Papers in Economics,
Stockholm University, Department of Economics

No 2011:14: Gender and Competition in Adolescence: Task Matter

Anna Dreber (), Emma von Essen () and Eva Ranehill ()
Additional contact information
Anna Dreber: Stockholm School of Economics, Postal: Department of Economics, Stockholm School of Economics, P.O. Box 6501, 113 83 Stockholm, Sweden
Emma von Essen: Dept. of Economics, Stockholm University, Postal: Department of Economics, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Eva Ranehill: University of Zürich, Postal: Department of Economics, University of Zürich, Blümlisalpstrasse 10, 8006 Zürich, Switzerland

Abstract: We look at gender differences among adolescents in Sweden in preferences for competition, altruism and risk. For competitiveness, we explore two different tasks that differ in associated stereotypes. We find no gender difference in competitiveness when comparing performance under competition to that without competition. We further find that boys and girls are equally likely to self-select into competition in a verbal task, but that boys are significantly more likely to choose to compete in a mathematical task. This gender gap diminishes and becomes non-significant when we control for actual performance and beliefs about relative performance. These results show that among adolescents in our sample, the gender gap in competitiveness is not due to preferences for competition per se. Girls are also more altruistic and less risk taking than boys.

Keywords: Competitiveness; risk preferences; altruism; adolescents; gender differences; experiment

JEL-codes: C91; D03; J16

18 pages, First version: April 11, 2011. Revised: March 8, 2013.

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