Gender Gap Under Pressure: Evidence from China's National College Entrance Examination

37 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2016

See all articles by Xiqian Cai

Xiqian Cai

Xiamen University - Wang Yanan Institute for Studies in Economics (WISE)

Yi Lu

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Department of Economics

Jessica Pan

National University of Singapore (NUS)

Songfa Zhong

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 2016

Abstract

This paper examines how female and male examination performance are differentially affected by the degree of competitive pressure faced. Our setting is China's National College Entrance Exam (Gaokao) which is widely regarded as the world's most competitive exam. We show that compared to male students, females underperform on the high-stakes Gaokao, relative to their performance on the low-stakes mock examination held two months earlier. The gender gap in exam scores is 0.15 standard deviations larger in the Gaokao relative to the mock exam. This translates to a 15% decline in the probability that females qualify for a Tier 1 university when moving from a low-stakes setting to a high-stakes setting. To elaborate on the possible mechanisms, we conduct two further analyses. First, for subgroups of students where the stakes matter more, the performance gaps are larger, and we observe a decline in performance among females, coupled with an improvement in performance among males. Second, we find that, compared to males, females perform worse on the afternoon exam in response to negative performance shocks on the morning exam.

Keywords: gender, stress, performance

JEL Classification: J16, D03

Suggested Citation

Cai, Xiqian and Lu, Yi and Pan, Jessica and Zhong, Songfa, Gender Gap Under Pressure: Evidence from China's National College Entrance Examination (January 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2717464 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2717464

Xiqian Cai

Xiamen University - Wang Yanan Institute for Studies in Economics (WISE) ( email )

B 309, Economics Building
Xiamen, Fujian 10246
China

Yi Lu

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Department of Economics ( email )

1 Arts Link, AS2 #06-02
Singapore 117570, Singapore 119077
Singapore
65-65166834 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://ylu6.weebly.com

Jessica Pan

National University of Singapore (NUS) ( email )

1E Kent Ridge Road
NUHS Tower Block Level 7
Singapore, 119228
Singapore

Songfa Zhong (Contact Author)

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Department of Economics ( email )

1 Arts Link, AS2 #06-02
Singapore 117570, Singapore 119077
Singapore

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