Skip to main content
School of Business and Management

The Gender Gap in Student Performance: The Role of Stakes

When: Wednesday, October 5, 2022, 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Where: FB 1.01, Francis Bancroft Building, Mile End campus

Speaker: Professor Almudena Sevilla (LSE)

Professor Sevilla will present her recent research on Wednesday 5 October from 1pm-2pm, in FB 1.01.

Paper title: The Gender Gap in Student Performance: The Role of Stakes, with José Montalbán.

Professor Sevilla is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the Department of Social Policy, LSE, the current chair of Royal Economic Society’s Women’s Committee, and an author of the RES’s report on the status of women in economics. She has a PhD from Brown University. In addition to studying gender discrimination, her research interests are in the areas of child development and human capital. She is a former member of the School of Business and Management, and has taught at Essex, Oxford and UCL.



Women perform worse than men under higher pressure or competitive settings, especially in settings where there are strong stereotypes of female inabilities, such as in mathematics. Understanding what causes this remains a critical question for designing effective performance based incentive systems, both in schools and workplaces. To date, gaps in the data have made distinguishing between the role of competition and stakes difficult. In this paper, we aim to address this by exploiting a randomized control trial intervention from Madrid.

In the trial, students were exposed to systematically varying degrees of stakes, while maintaining other factors of the test constant. We show that girls perform worse than boys when perceived test stakes are higher, particularly in mathematics. But rather than being driven by unobserved factors related to the way the rest was run, we find that girls’ relative under-performance in mathematics stems from them having a lower tolerance for pressure when they are young, and from exerting less effort when they are older. 

Back to top