– The Spotlight series highlights the research of female economists, one at a time.

Muriel Niederle is a Professor of Economics at Stanford University. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard University and is a Research Associate of the NBER. Muriel is an Associate Editor of the Journal of European Economic Association, Quantitative Economics, and AEJ: Microeconomics. Her research concentrates on behavioral and experimental economics, with emphasis on gender and market design related topics. Muriel’s work has been published in top journals, including the American Economic Review, Econometrica, the Journal of Political Economy, and the Quarterly Journal of Economics.

I am particularly fond of Muriel’s experimental work on gender differences in competitive environments. Along with various co-authors, she finds that:

(1) As the competitiveness of the environment increases, men’s performance increases significantly, but not women’s.

(2) “This effect is stronger when women have to compete against men than in single-sex competitive environments: this suggests that women may be able to perform in competitive environments per se.”

(3) “Women shy away from competition and men embrace it.”

(4) Among secondary school students in the Netherlands, “although boys and girls display similar levels of academic ability, boys choose substantially more prestigious academic tracks, where more prestigious tracks are more math- and science-intensive…Boys are also substantially more competitive than girls…Competitiveness is strongly positively correlated with choosing more prestigious academic tracks even conditional on academic ability…The gender difference in competitiveness accounts for a substantial portion (about 20%) of the gender difference in track choice.”

For more information about Muriel and her research, check out her website. It has a lot of interesting stuff! She also blogs about experimental and behavioral economics here.