Competition and Gender in the Lab vs. Field: Experiments with Off-Grid Renewable Energy Entrepreneurs in Rural Rwanda

EfD Discussion Paper
1 January 2019

Applications of lab experiments to real-world phenomena are limited. We fill the gap by examining how gender attitudes and performance under competitive situations in the lab reflect microenterprise outcomes in the renewable energy sector of Rwanda – a country with progressive gender policies despite its traditional patriarchal setup. We use the standard Niederle and Vesterlund (2007) experimental design in addition to a unique dataset from off-grid microenterprises, managed by entrepreneurs who have been working in mixed and single-sex teams since 2016. Our findings show that the gender composition of teams does not affect decisions to compete in the lab. However, returns to education and risk-taking in the real world are more valuable for single-sex teams than for mixed gender teams. We also show that under competitive situations, women perform as well as men. Findings from the field strongly support findings in the lab that female-owned enterprises do not underperform in competitive settings, which corroborates the external validity of our lab results. Given that lab and field findings suggest no significant differentials in terms of competitiveness or performance of females, there exists ample scope to increase women’s
involvement in the renewable energy sector of Rwanda.

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Rebecca A. Klege and Martine Visser, Competition and Gender in the Lab vs. Field: Experiments with Off-Grid Renewable Energy Entrepreneurs in Rural Rwanda, EfD Discussion Paper Series 19-24

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Publication | 4 February 2020