Gender, Competitiveness and Career Choices


August 22, 2012


Muriel Niederle




Gender differences in competitiveness are often discussed as potential explanation for gender differences in labor market outcomes. We correlate an incentivized measure of competitiveness
with the first important career choice of secondary school students in the Netherlands. At the age of 15, these students have to pick one out of four study profiles, which vary in how prestigious
they are. While boys and girls have very similar levels of academic ability, boys are substantially more likely than girls to choose more prestigious profiles. We find that 25% of this gender difference can be attributed to gender differences in competitiveness. This lends support to the extrapolation of laboratory findings on competitiveness to labor market settings. Joint work with Hessel Oosterbeek and Thomas Buser.


Muriel Niederle

Muriel is a Professor of Economics at Stanford. In her own words: I am an experimental economist, and as such, have some experiments that fall outside my main areas of gender or market design. Most recently, I got interested in k-level models. The first strand of literature I am working on can be broadly thought of as market design. While that includes studying markets that have been designed (such as the National Residency Matching Market), I am also interested redesigning markets, or adding features such as signaling to help markets such as the economics job market work better. Most recently, I have been getting involved in working with the San Francisco Unified School District to help redesign their school choice system. In market design, I have used theory, experiments, as well as data collected by others.
My second strand of work is work on gender differences. So far, I have only experimental papers in that are, showing that women may not be as competitive as men, especially when they have to compete against men.