Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

I'll take 'The End of Men' for 800, Alex

Julia Collins, who has a master’s in engineering from MIT, is Jeopardy’s top woman.


Julia Collins, who has a master’s in engineering from MIT, is Jeopardy’s top woman.

Jeopardy contestant Julia Collins is making news for being the most successful woman in the game's history, at nine wins and counting before Monday night. Only three players have won more: Arthur Chu, who had 11 wins this year; Dave Madden, who won 19 games in 2005; and, of course, Ken Jennings, the current record holder with his 74-game win streak in 2004.

How have women fared compared with men in the game's history overall? Is there a gender pay gap in Jeopardy winnings similar to the pay gap seen in the workforce?

For answers I turned to, a "Jeopardy" fan site that maintains records of nearly every episode that's aired in the Alex Trebek era of the show. I scraped the site for the winners and winnings of each show for the past 10 years. I ran the names through to determine the likely gender of each winner. After tossing out records with names showing a gender certainty of less than 85 percent, and records that the scraper couldn't parse due to irregularities on the j-archive site, I ended up with a sample of a little over 1,800 Jeopardy matches. The conclusion: Women are winning more often than they used to.

In 2004, 14 percent of Jeopardy winners were female. But so far this year, women are winning more than 50 percent of the time. Aside from Collins, contestants Sandie Baker and Sarah McNitt have also gone on five-plus game winning streaks this season.

The historical disparity between male and female win frequencies can partially be explained by the fact that women are less likely to appear on Jeopardy in general. Only 40 percent of contestants are female, according to a recent Slate analysis.

There's also been some speculation that Jeopardy questions are biased toward men. Seven out of nine of the show's writers are male, as are four of the five researchers.

The yearly percentages do jump around quite a bit. Last year, for instance, women won only 23 percent of the time. But overall the numbers are trending upward. It will be interesting to see whether the strong showing by women in the first half of this season will continue. No pressure, Julia.

The statistics also show that, this year, female Jeopardy champions are winning 89 cents on the dollar compared to men. This gender pay gap — measured in terms of average winnings per game — is slightly smaller than the gap in the general labor force, where women earn 84 cents on the male dollar, according to Pew Research Center estimates.

In recent years the Jeopardy gap has been as small as a few cents, and in 2012 women and men achieved complete pay parity. The gap has narrowed quite a bit in the past decade. In 2004, women earned only 58 cents on the male dollar. But Jennings is at least partly responsible for the 2004 gap: Men's earnings were especially high then, mostly because Jennings had 11 $50,000-plus games that year.

Roger Craig's average winnings per game of $38,367 is still the highest among champions who have won more than five games in their career. Larissa Kelly has the second-highest average earnings, at $37,100. Collins is in the bottom-middle of the champion pack on that measure with her average of about $21,000 per game.

Overall, Jeopardy is becoming a more equal playing field between men and women. As girls continue to outperform boys in school, and women continue to graduate from college at higher rates than men, I'd expect this trend to continue in the coming years. If we are headed for the end of men in the economy overall, don't be surprised to see this reflected in your favorite game show, as well.

I'll take 'The End of Men' for 800, Alex 05/05/14 [Last modified: Monday, May 5, 2014 6:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Jason Aldean fires up a country-dude party at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre


    Country music has a dude problem.

    I’m not talking about the proliferation of mindless bro country over the past half-decade, nor am I referring to the fact that most of Nashville’s best music these days comes not from said bros, from female singers and songwriters.

    Jason Aldean performed at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on Aug. 18, 2018.
  2. President Trump offers prayers for Kissimmee police


    President Donald Trump reacted to the police shooting in Kissimmee:

  3. Kissimmee police officer dies, one gravely wounded; Jacksonville officers shot


    KISSIMMEE — A Kissimmee police officer died and a second was gravely wounded Friday night, police Chief Jeff O'Dell said.

    Two police officers have been shot and killed in Kissimmee, authorities say. The shooting happened in the area of Palmway and Cypress around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. Photo courtesy of
  4. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  5. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming


    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]