Gender Differences in Competition: Running Performance in 1,500 Meter Tournaments


Gender differences in outcomes are often explained by gender differences in competitiveness. Using evidence from the outdoor World Championships and Olympics 1,500 meter event, this paper investigates whether gender differences exist in the behavior of runners. Results indicate that there are some gender differences in the competition. Where the gender differences exist, the evidence indicates that there is a difference in the relationship between ability and performance and between peer effects and performance. These results are suggestive of males running more strategically.

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  1. 1.

    A significant body of empirical literature examines peer effects in a variety of settings. The discussion here is limited to peer effects in sports or gender differences in peer effects. For more, see Ammermueller and Pischke [2009] and Angrist and Lang [2004] on peer effects in schooling; Mas and Moretti [2009] and Bandiera, Barankay, and Rasul [2009] on peer effects in jobs. See Angrist and Pischke [2009] for an econometric discussion of peer effects.

  2. 2.

    See, for example, Ehrenberg and Bognanno [1990a, 1990b]; Orszag [1994]; Maloney and McCormick [2000]; Lynch and Zax [2000]; Frick and Prinz [2007]; Gilsdorf and Sukhatme [2008a, 2008b].

  3. 3.

    See for more information about the association.

  4. 4.

    Not excluding runner i’s time from the average would always provide a coefficient estimate of 1.

  5. 5.

    Heats within a round are run with 10 minutes between starting times of each heat. As regressions below are run separately by round, it is expected that weather and crowds will not vary much within this short time period. As a result, the year dummy variables should do a good job of capturing a wide variety of factors that differ across heats within a round.

  6. 6.

    There were only two rounds in 2005 and 2008 for females. In these 2 years, we consider females to only have preliminary round and a final round.

  7. 7.

    The strategy used to investigate gender differences in different rounds of these probit models is the same as described for the previous models of runners’ times. As these estimated models are probit models, the appropriate test of a joint hypothesis of no gender differences is a χ2 test.

  8. 8.

    Both males and females have participated in the 1,500 meter event at the World Championships since its inception in 1983.

  9. 9.

    We would like to thank an anonymous referee for presenting this possible explanation.


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Emerson, J., Hill, B. Gender Differences in Competition: Running Performance in 1,500 Meter Tournaments. Eastern Econ J 40, 499–517 (2014).

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  • tournaments
  • peer effects
  • gender differences

JEL Classifications

  • J44
  • L83