Discussion paper

DP17702 Gender Gaps in Access to Medical Intern Positions: The Role of Competition

Competitive selection processes may create inefficiencies in the labor market when differences in performance during the selection process are unrelated to differences in performance on the job for which candidates are selected. Using data on the universe of candidates in the highly competitive and high stakes national entry exam into the medical profession in Spain over the past four decades, we first report the evolution of gender differences in exam performance, which translate into important gender gaps as regards the probability of gaining a position (ranging from negative 7% up to positive 9% depending on the period), controlling for individual heterogeneity in ability. We then exploit the large variance in the proportion of available positions with respect to the number of candidates, to show that the observed evolution of gender gaps is compatible with the evolution of the selection process' competitiveness: the more competitive the process, the higher the underperformance of women compared to men, while when the process shows low competitiveness, women outperform men. Since competitiveness is not a requirement in several professions, planning the number of candidates in coordination with the number of available positions according to the system needs and not other criteria would result in gains of efficiency.


Díez-Rituerto, M, J Gardeazabal, N Iriberri and P Rey Biel (eds) (2022), “DP17702 Gender Gaps in Access to Medical Intern Positions: The Role of Competition”, CEPR Press Discussion Paper No. 17702. https://cepr.org/publications/dp17702