Social Roles and Competitiveness: My Willingness to Compete Depends on Who I am (Supposed to Be)

Peilu Zhang, Jacquelyn Zhang, Marco A. Palma

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Women frequently react less favorably to competition than men. In this paper, we investigate the effects of social roles on willingness to compete (WTC). Subjects compete in two-person teams. In the treatment, one team member is randomly assigned the role of “breadwinner/manager”, and the other person is randomly assigned as the “supporter/assistant”. The only difference between the roles is the labels. In the baseline, subjects compete without any role assignment. We find women's WTC increases by 41% (44%) when they are assigned as breadwinners (managers) compared to women in the baseline. Men have lower WTC when they are assigned as supporters or assistants. There is no gender gap in WTC in treatment groups. Social norms of competitiveness for each role are elicited, and are suggested as the main driver of changes in WTC by the role assignment. We also examine other potential mechanisms through which social roles affect WTC.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)125-151
    JournalGames and Economic Behavior
    Publication statusPublished - 2023

    Cite this