Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Social Norms and Competitiveness: My Willingness to Compete Depends on Who I am (supposed to be)

Zhang, Peilu and Zhang, Yinjunjie and Palma, Marco (2018): Social Norms and Competitiveness: My Willingness to Compete Depends on Who I am (supposed to be).

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Women often respond less favorably to competition than men. In this paper, we test for the effects of social norms on willingness to compete. Subjects compete in two-person teams. In the treatment, one team member is randomly assigned the role of “breadwinner”, and the other person is randomly assigned as the “supporter”. There are no real differences between the roles in our experiment, except for the framing. These two roles have opposite social norms for competitiveness, reminiscent of gender roles in western society. In the baseline, subjects compete in two-person teams without role assignment. We find women’s willingness to compete significantly increases when they are assigned as breadwinners compared to women in the base- line or female supporters. We also find that there is no gender gap in willingness to compete between female breadwinners and males in the baseline. The increase in willingness to compete is mainly contributed by high-ability women. Males are also affected by the role assignment; male supporters are less likely to enter the tournament than male breadwinners. We argue that the changes in willingness to compete are mainly driven by the social norms implied by the two roles.

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