The State Street Mile: Age and Gender Differences in Competition-Aversion in the Field
Gender differences in “competitiveness,” previously documented in laboratory experiments, are hypothesized to play a role in a wide array of economic outcomes. The current paper provides evidence of competition-aversion in a natural setting somewhere between the simplicity of a laboratory experiment and the full complexity and ambiguity of a labor market. The “State Street Mile” race offers both male and female participants a choice between two different levels of competition. Large, systematic age and gender differences are observed in the relationship between true ability and the decision to enter the more competitive race. Overall, qualified women and older runners are far less likely than qualified young men to enter a competitive race with cash prizes. However, the fastest young women unanimously enter the competitive race. Therefore, while we confirm age and gender differences in competitiveness in our field setting, the economic consequences to capable young women are rather small.