Competition and Gender Differences in Educational Outcomes: Evidence from One Matrilineal and Two Patrilineal Societies

Jane Zhang, University of California, Berkeley

Recent experimental economics literature has put forth an intriguing hypothesis: innate gender differences in competitive inclination can explain pervasive gender gaps in economic outcomes around the world. This paper first tests whether experimentally derived measures of competitive inclination can explain real world choices to compete. I find that competitive inclination has significant explanatory power for the decision to take a competitive high school entrance exam, a decision of major economic consequence for my subject pool of rural Chinese middle school students. Second, this paper tests the claim that gender differences in competitive inclination are innate against the alternative explanation that cultural gender norms play a role. The subjects come from neighboring matrilineal and patrilineal societies that exhibit gender bias in child preference. Surprisingly, gender differences in competitive inclination are small compared to evidence from the US, and if anything, the largest differences are found in the matrilineal group.

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Presented in Poster Session 5