Centre for Development Economics
Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics


Social Norms, Women’s Status and Gender Differences in Competitiveness: Evidence from Field Experiments in India’s Northeast


Sumantra Pal

(Ministry of Finance)

Thursday, 2 January 2020 at 3:05 P.M.

Venue: New Seminar Room (Room no. 116, First Floor)

Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics

All are cordially invited

We study the relationship between social norms governing women’s status in society and gender differences in competitiveness. We conduct a lab-in-the-field experiment eliciting men’s and women’s inclinations to compete among three traditional societies with markedly different social norms, one patriarchic, one gender- balanced and one with norms that come close to matriarchy. We find that the male-female gender difference in the inclination to compete for increases with the degree of patriarchy. We also find that men make optimal decisions more often than women only in the patriarchic society while women’s decisions are most superior to men’s in the gender-balanced society. We can rule out gender differences in risk preferences as a driver of these results. Our results highlight the importance of ‘nurture’ rather than ‘nature’ for gender differences in competitiveness and suggest that the marked asymmetries documented for modern societies are a long-term consequence of a patriarchic heritage.


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