Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Competing Against the Opposite Sex


Given the tournament-style structure of many aspects of the labor market, one potentially powerful explanation for gender differences in pay and promotion is that men and women respond differently to competitive environments. We examine data from the high-stakes television game show The Weakest Link in order to determine whether men outperform women in competitive settings and whether the performance of men and women is affected by the gender of their opponents. The data show that in head-to-head competition men beat their female opponents over 72% of the time. Controlling for ability using past performance explains at most 27% of this differential. Our results also suggest that men's relative success arises because men perform better when they compete against women than against men, and that the higher the proportion of women among their competitors the better men perform. In contrast, we do not find strong evidence that the performance of women is affected by the gender of their opponents.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View