Saturday, February 23, 2013

boys and girls in the classroom

New evidence from Italy has strong implications for mixed high-school education. (See also this.) Anelli and Peri find that girls in single sex classes are more likely to study "hard" subjects (e.g., economics or engineering) at University than those in mixed-sex classes.

The policy conclusion are clear:
If an objective of schooling is to increase women’s career opportunities and thereby their salaries, our results would suggest that gender-separated classrooms would be an effective step in the right direction. Gender-separated classrooms would increase the probability of choosing high-earning majors for both women and men.

Similar evidence, for university students, have been obtained by Booth and Nolan: "after eight weeks in a single-sex environment, women were significantly more likely to choose the [risky] lottery".

While the Italian evidence is from a "natural experiment", the evidence by Booth and Nolan is from an actual field-experiment, following an earlier study in high-schools. Good schools should offer students the possibility of choosing single-sex classes or offer the possibility of a random lottery over single-sex or co-ed classes. (Which provides additional data for analyses of peer-effects and subsequent outcomes.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Gender and Competition

Why do wages or occupations differ for men and women? There are several explanations for gender-specific differences, however, we do not have a convincing explanation yet. One possible explanation is that--for whatever reason--men are more likely to take risks than women. The analysis of differences in risk-taking has a strong experimental background, both in the laboratory and in the field. Eckel and Grossman (2008) and Croson and Gneezy (2009) provide surveys on experiments which investigate differences between the genders in their risk taking.

In a new working paper, "Evidence from Jumping Competitions", Mario Lackner and I analyze if female athletes differ from male athletes in their competitive behavior, using data from high jump and pole vault competitions. In these sports, we observe athletes choosing a risky strategy, namely the pass of a height. This is a risky strategy as the next jump is without doubt more difficult (the bar is raised). (Sport events are excellent "real-life" laboratories as they allow the analysis of behavior under clear rules, that is extremely difficult to observe in most other situations.)

While the rules for men and women are the same, we find striking differences in how often men and women use passes.

The returns to risk-taking are positive, which indicates underconfidence rather than overconfidence, for both men and women. Overconfident athletes would pass too often, reducing the probability to clear a height. The positive returns to taking risks, however, are much greater for women than for men, indicating that women are considerably less confident than men and could improve their outcomes by choosing to pass more often.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


The current issue of the Journal of Economic Perspective has four papers on patents---and launches a "Case against Patents".

Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine, in the introductory paper:
The case against patents can be summarized briefly: there is no empirical evidence that they serve to increase innovation and productivity ... Our preferred policy solution is to abolish patents entirely ...

I suppose this is the start of a heated debate, I'm looking forward to the discussion. In the meantime, do read the excellent esseay on the historical perspective on patents by Petra Moser in the same issue. (Did you know that the Netherlands abolished its patent system in 1869 because patents were seen as a form of protectionism and rejected as a restriction on trade?)