Handbook on the Economics of Women in Sports
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Handbook on the Economics of Women in Sports

Edited by Eva Marikova Leeds and Michael A. Leeds

Women’s sports have received much less attention from economists than from other social scientists. This Handbook fills that gap with a comprehensive economic analysis of women’s sports. It also analyzes how the behavior and treatment of female athletes reflect broad economic forces.
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Chapter 5: Gender differences in responses to incentives in sports: some new results from golf

Keith F. Gilsdorf and Vasant A. Sukhatme


Women and men make very different labor market decisions, which lead to different employment rates, employment patterns, and earnings. For example, women are underrepresented in many high-profile jobs, including those in academia and public administration. Research in psychology has reported that women and men gravitate toward different incentive systems; men are eager to compete, but women shy away from competition. More than men, women prefer to work under piece-rate systems in which rewards are based on absolute performance as opposed to tournament pay systems in which rewards depend on relative performance. Some of the early literature on this issue concluded that the earnings differences were caused by gender discrimination (Goldin and Rouse, 2000). Others claimed that women self-selected into jobs that did not demand large investments in human capital because they anticipated lower returns to such investment because they would leave the labor force (at least temporarily) after having children (Polachek, 1981). Over the last decade or so, economists and other social scientists have examined other hypotheses, among them the proposition that part of the gender pay gap arises from different reactions to prize incentives. Croson and Gneezy (2009) review experimental evidence on preference differences between men and women, focusing on three factors that have been extensively studied: risk preferences, social preferences, and reaction to competition. They find that women are more risk averse and more competition averse than men.

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