Willingness to Compete: Family Matters

Ingvild Almås, Alexander W. Cappelen, Kjell G. Salvanes, Erik Ø. Sørensen, and Bertil Tungodden.

NHH Dept. of Economics Discussion Paper No. 03/2014.

This paper studies the role of family background in explaining differences in the willingness to compete. By combining data from a lab experiment conducted with a representative sample of adolescents in Norway and high quality register data on family background, we show that family background is fundamental in two important ways. First, boys from low socioeconomic status families are less willing to compete than boys from better off families, even when controlling for confidence, performance, risk preferences, time preferences, social preferences, and psychological traits. Second, family background is crucial for understanding the large gender difference in the willingness to compete. Girls are much less willing to compete than boys among children from better off families, whereas we do not find any gender difference in willingness to compete among children from low socioeconomic status families. Our data suggest that the main mechanism explaining the role of family background is that the father’s socioeconomic status has a large effect on the boys’ willingness to compete, but no effect on the girls. We do not find any effect on the willingness to compete for boys or girls of the mother’s socioeconomic status or other family characteristic that may potentially shape competition preferences, including parental equality and sibling rivalry.

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Published Aug. 4, 2015 3:00 PM - Last modified Feb. 4, 2019 2:26 PM