Jeopardy! is a TV game in the USA, which is in the form of a quiz competition and the opponents are given general knowledge hints structured as answers, and they must compose their responses in question form.
The first show was aired on 30th March 1964 and it had different structure throughout the years. The most successful form of the show was its daily version, which started on 10th September 1984. Alex Trebek began as a host back then and is still holding the same position.
The show has aired more than 6,000 episodes up until May 2011 and the daily version has won the record 30 Daytime Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award till this year. The current 30th season of the daily version premiered on 16th September 2013 and will air until 1st August 2014.
Alex Trebek’s claim
Alex Trebek made it into the gambling news recently, when he expressed his opinion on the fact that women are less likely to win at Jeopardy! than men. He said: “Women contestants, when it comes to a Daily Double, seem to want to wager (less) because they figure, ‘Oh, this is the household money, this is the grocery money, the rent money.’”
Trebek continued: “Guys say, ‘Wait a minute, I’m playing with the house money. I’m not taking any money home unless I win the game, so I can go whole hog on this wager.’ Women are more cautious in that regard. But that’s changing. We’ve attracted more women to the show and they’re getting a little more adventurous.”
Slate, US daily online magazine, decided to dig deeper into the issue of gender betting habits. The team went over the figures from 1984 up until today and found out that there is no significant gender difference in the size of the bet, but there is a constant gap in male and female wagers, which is spread through the 30 years from the beginning of the current form of the show.
In order for the study to be complete, Slate provided further information on its research methodology. It used the data provided by the J!Archive, which keeps record of the name of the competitors, as well as the answers, bets and winnings.
It seems that the archive was not comprehensive, as information for the older games was missing. Due to the fact the archive didn’t specify the gender of the participants,
Slate’s team made an attempt to identify the gender by the names of the contestants, which were more than 85% likely to be male or female. Apparently, some names didn’t provide the opportunity for gender to be determined by them.
The findings were pretty interesting – 10,608 Daily Double bets, which were made between 1984 and 2014, were able to be identified as placed by a man or woman. For the same period, the average male Daily Double bet was $1,963, whereas the average female Daily Double bet was $1,675.
Also, the data showed that generally men had gathered more money before reaching the Daily Double than women had.
Additionally, women are currently betting more than they used to do in the past, but the same fact goes for men as well. Potential reason for this rising may be the change in the US gambling laws, which now allow online gambling in three states and more are yet to join this group.
The findings somewhat confirmed Trebek’s claim, regardless of the fact that there were certain years from the sample, which showed clearly that in these particular years, women bet more.
Still, it didn’t became crystal clear if the less risky betting represents the less developed strategy used by female players. The data confirmed that women tend to win Jeopardy! less often than men.
So far, 39.9% of Jeopardy! opponents were women and they have won 30.3% of games. Slate’s specialists declared that this gap can’t be explained by the various betting strategies of the two genders.
Food for thought
According to Slate’s research one of the factors that explain the gender gap is the fact that less women participate in the quiz.
Another hypothesis suggested that the questions are somewhat gendered. Apparently, the professionals who are inventing the clues for the participants are predominantly male. Therefore, maybe their logic appeals more to the male players and this might be some sort of explanation.
What is Slate’s conclusion? It is not hard for Trebek to claim that female participants need to become “a little more adventurous” with their Daily Double bets. However, three possible realities are more important and hard to be explained, according to Slate:
1. The game itself may be slightly discriminatory against women
2. Women are not as good as men at Jeopardy! for reasons that are not clear
3. Women are too busy worrying about grocery money in order to devote enough time to strategize their moves