Competitive Pressure Widens the Gender Gap in Performance: Evidence from a Two-stage Competition in Mathematics

Authors: Nagore Iriberri and Pedro Rey-Biel

Economic Journal, December, 2018

In two-stage elimination math contests, participants from four different age groups compete to pass from stage 1 to stage 2 and later to be among the winners. Although female participants have higher maths grades at school the gender gap reverses in the two stages of the contests. More importantly, following the same individual participant across different stages, we find that the gender gap in performance increases from stage 1 to stage 2. The increase in female underperformance is attributed to higher competitive pressure and alternative explanations based on selection, discrimination and differences in reaction to increasing difficulty are ruled out.

This paper originally appeared as Barcelona GSE Working Paper 879