Author(s)Zhang, Yiqin Jane
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AbstractRecent experimental economics research documents substantial gender differences in the willingness to compete in a tournament, suggesting that women may be underrepresented in positions of power because they lack competitive drive. The second chapter of this dissertation examines whether competitive inclination measured in the lab is predictive of the subsequent propensity to take a competitive and highly consequential high school entrance exam in rural China. Using a discrete choice mixed logit model, I estimate individual parameters of competitive inclination from lab data for my sample of ethnically diverse middle school students. I find that a middle school student with a taste for competition one standard deviation above the mean is 7.2 percentage points more likely to take the exam, controlling for prior test scores. Contrary to results from studies in adult populations, no gender differences were found in competitive inclination. Likewise, no gender difference was found in exam taking behavior, controlling for prior test scores.The underrepresentation of women in leadership roles could also reinforce gender differences in competitive inclination in a "low" equilibrium. The third chapter of this dissertation studies adult competitive inclination in China, a country which has deliberately sought to move to a "high" equilibrium through massive coordinated government action. Competitive inclination is elicited from three ethnic groups in a "cultural laboratory": the majority Han Chinese, a matrilineal minority group, and a patrilineal minority group. The Han Chinese exhibited no statistically significant gender differences in competitive inclination. Women in the patrilineal minority, where clan leaders arrange marriages, are less competitively inclined than the men, and the men are as competitively inclined than the Han Chinese. Women in the matrilineal minority are as competitively inclined as the Han Chinese but the men are more competitively inclined. This non-intuitive result may be explained by the special non-exclusive nature of "marriages" in the matrilineal group. These findings suggest that coordinated government action can shape competitive preferences, which have the potential to lead to organic increases in gender diversity in leadership roles. More broadly, they support the case for quotas for women in parliament and corporate boardrooms.