Document Type


Publication Date



Recent advances have highlighted the evolutionary significance of female competition, with the sexes pursuing different competitive strategies and females reserving their most intense competitive behaviors for the benefit of offspring (1-3). Influential economic experiments using cash incentives, however, have found evidence suggesting that women have a lower desire to compete than men (4-7). We hypothesize that the estimated gender differences critically depend on how we elicit them, especially on the incentives used. We test this hypothesis through an experiment with adults in China (n=358). Data show that, once the incentives are switched from monetary to childbenefitting, gender differences disappear. This result suggests that female competition can be just as intense as male competition given the right goals, indicating important implications for policies designed to promote gender equality.


This work is the pre-print version of the following work: Cassar, A., Wordofa, F., & Zhang, Y. J. (2016). Competing for the benefit of offspring eliminates the gender gap in competitiveness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113(19), 5201–5205.

Copyright © 2016 National Academy of Sciences



TheCompetitiveMotherSI10Feb2016.pdf (2245 kB)
Supplementary Information for "Competitive Mothers: Comparing Competitiveness in Spheres that Matter"