DP13541 Brave Boys and Play-it-Safe Girls: Gender Differences in Willingness to Guess in a Large Scale Natural Field Experiment

Author(s): Nagore Iriberri, Pedro Rey-Biel
Publication Date: February 2019
Date Revised: February 2019
Keyword(s): confidence, gender differences, natural field experiment, perceived ability in math, risk preferences, willingness to guess
JEL(s): C93, D81, I20, J16
Programme Areas: Labour Economics, Public Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=13541

We study gender differences in willingness to guess using approximately 10,000 multiple-choice math tests, where for half of the questions, both wrong answers and omitted questions are scored 0, and for the other half, wrong answers are scored 0 but omitted questions are scored +1. Using a within-participant regression analysis, we find that female participants leave significantly more omitted questions than males when there is a reward for omitted questions. This gender difference, which is stronger among high ability and older participants, hurts female performance as measured by the final score and position in the ranking. In a subsequent survey, female participants showed lower levels of confidence and higher risk aversion, which may explain this differential behavior. When both are considered, risk aversion is the main factor explaining the gender differential in the willingness to guess. A scoring rule that is gender neutral must use non-differential scoring between wrong answers and omitted questions.