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Manuela Angelucci

Stress and Gender Differences in Competitiveness

Project Summary

This project has two goals. First, it tests the hypothesis that stress is one of the causes of the gender gap in competitiveness and performance during competitions. Specifically, it studies whether women who experienced negative life events are more vulnerable to the stress caused by competing, which makes them less likely to choose to compete, more likely to underperform when competing, or both. Second, it studies two mechanisms to reduce the gender gap in competitiveness and performance in competition: performance rank feedback and monetary incentives.

We design a lab experiment in which subjects complete three sets of tasks and are compensated first piece rate, then via a winner-take-all tournament, and lastly through the payment scheme of their choice (piece rate or tournament). We collect data on negative life events and the stress and effort associated with the completion of the three tasks to measure whether women exposed to negative life events (i) become more stressed and perform worse, conditional on effort or not, when forced to compete and (ii) are less likely to choose to compete than women with low negative life events, conditional on baseline performance. Moreover, we randomly provide performance rank feedback and high monetary incentives to compete to see whether these differences attenuate the gap in both competitiveness and performance in competitive environments.

Studying the determinants of the gender gap in competitiveness and competitive performance, as well as studying how this gap is affected by information and incentives, can help us to both understandwhat causes women’s under-representation in high-pressure jobs and activities, and identify potential policies to reduce such gender gaps.