Essays in Experimental Economics and Gender Economics

Elif E. Demiral Saglam

Advisor: Johanna B Mollerstrom, PhD, Department of Economics

Committee Members: Daniel Houser, Cesar Martinelli, Kevin McCabe

Online Location, #D150
May 29, 2020, 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM


This dissertation focuses on understanding some of the behavioral factors behind the gender differences in labor market outcomes, and makes suggestions about the design of policies that could reduce such gender differences.

Chapter 1 investigates the impact on employability of signaling alternative personal tastes for competitions. I define three types of job candidates who vary in their competitive preferences: self-competitive, other-competitive, and non-competitive. Using three studies, I investigate whether the candidate’s competitive taste affects (perceptions about) their likelihood of being hired for a job. First, findings from Study 1 show that self-competitive candidates are most likely to be hired in an experimental hiring market. Second, to increase the likelihood of being hired, hypothetical candidates are overwhelmingly recommended by other participants to mention that they are self-competitive in a cover letter in Study 2. Third, candidates who express their taste for self-competition in their cover letters are regarded as more employable and more socially likable when compared to the other two types in Study 3. Additionally, other-competitive candidates are rated the least favorably in the social domains in Study 3 (i.e., they experience a backlash from being other-competitive). Self-competitive candidates, on the other hand, are believed to be the highest performers among all of the three types, but they receive no negative feedback for being competitive. This suggests that self-competitiveness is potentially an advantageous channel to signal productivity while keeping the risk of backlash low. All of the findings hold for both male and female candidates.

The second chapter also uses a total of three studies and tests willingness to select into and preferences for other- and self-competitions. The first two studies replicate the well-documented gender differences in the willingness to compete against others, but report no evidence of a gender difference in the willingness to compete against one’s own previous performance. Results from Study 3 illustrate that both men and women prefer self-competitions to competitions against other individuals, especially when they are forced to compete but can choose how. Additionally, when self-competition is available as a compensation scheme choice along with other-competition and piece rate, more people choose to compete, which results in an increase in productivity. Moreover, I document that confidence, risk preferences, and causal attributions can explain why there exists a gender difference in willingness to compete against others but not against self.