Gender gap under pressure: Evidence from China's national college entrance examination

Xiqian Cai, Yi Lu, Jessica Pan, Songfa Zhong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examine gender differences in the response to competitive pressure using data from the most competitive entrance exam—China's Gaokao. Compared to male students, females underperform on the competitive and high-stakes Gaokao, relative to their performance on the low-stakes mock examination. Moreover, women's performance suffers more than men's in response to negative performance shocks in an earlier exam on the same day. These effects are more pronounced for subgroups of students where the stakes matter more. Overall, these findings appear to be best explained by women's lower tolerance for pressure and weaker incentives to do well in high-stakes settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-263
Number of pages15
JournalReview of Economics and Statistics
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics


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