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CEP discussion paper

Gender Differences in Response to Big Stakes


It is commonly perceived that increasing incentives improves performance. However, the reaction to increased incentives might differ between men and women, leading to gender differences in performance. In a natural experiment, we study the gender difference in performance resulting from changes in stakes. We use detailed information on the performance of high-school students and exploit the variation in the stakes of tests, which range from 5% to 27% of the final grade. We find that female students outperform male students in all tests—but to a relatively larger degree when the stakes are low. The gender gap disappears in tests taken at the end of high school, which count for 50% of the university entry grade.


Ghazala Azmat, Caterina Calsamiglia and Nagore Iriberri

Revised October 2015     Paper Number CEPDP1314

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This CEP discussion paper is published under the centre's Labour markets programme.