Frisch seminar: Nina Serdarevic
Him or Her? Choosing competition on behalf of someone else
We extend the existing literature on gender differences in competitive behaviour by investigating environments in which the choice to compete is not made by an individual themselves, but by someone else. In a laboratory experiment, we assign subjects either the role of an agent or a principal. Agents perform a real effort task while a randomly assigned principal chooses whether the agent performs it under a piece-rate or tournament incentive scheme. The principal is always informed about the agent's absolute previous performance, age and UK residency. However, we vary whether the principal is also informed of the agent's gender. This paper's main contribution lies in showing that there is no gender gap in tournament entry when principals choose on behalf of the agents. In particular, more women compete when the decision to enter the tournament is made by someone else. An analysis of potential explanations shows that principals' choices are determined by their preferences for risk and competitiveness and how well they think their agent performed in the tournament. Importantly, we find no difference in how males and females are evaluated. Finally, eliminating the gender gap in tournament entry comes at the cost of less payoff maximising decisions being made when principals decide. Whereas overall tournament performance and the performance of winners seems to be lower when made to compete, this effect is not robust to controlling for agents' ability.