Skip to main content

Department ofEconomics


Do Gender-Variant Preferences for Competition Persist in the Absence of Performance?

John Ifcher, Homa Zarghamee

Economic Inquiry 54(4): 1918-1930, April 2016

Button to link people to research publications


The well-established gender gap in preferences for competition has been attributed to gender-variant feelings about performing in competitive environments. Using a novel task with agency, in which subjects experience competition but cannot perform, we find evidence that performing may be sufficient but not necessary to generate gender-variant preferences for competition. This suggests that the gender-gap cannot be eliminated by correcting beliefs alone; that eliminating performance—for example, routinizing tasks—may not eliminate the gender gap; and that there may be heretofore unidentified determinants of preferences for competition—for example, men may prefer payment schemes that are based on social comparison.

LSB Research, ECON, 2016, John Ifcher