Ladies, how much are you paying in “pink tax”? That’s the amount of additional money you’re paying just for being female. We’re not just talking about clothing and haircuts… we mean, fashion and coifs. You’re even paying more for games and toys, according to a recent study by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA).
DCA confirmed the so-called “pink tax” by performing comparisons on almost 800 separate products that have “clear male and female versions” encompassing over ninety brands selected from two dozen retailers. Comparisons covered both in-store and online product offers. Those products were categorized into 35 distinct product types within five industries for analysis.
In individual comparisons, the female consumer product cost more 42% of the time than the equivalent male product. Male consumer products cost more 18% of the time, and 40% of the time the costs were roughly equivalent.
The DCA study found that women pay approximately 7% more than men for roughly equivalent products. That average holds across all five of the industries: toys and accessories, children’s clothing, adult clothing, personal care products, and senior/home health care products.
The largest discrepancy was in the toy category. Toys for girls cost more 55% of the time than equivalent toys for boys. In all six subcategories, girls’ toys cost more, with some of the discrepancies being inexplicably large. It is hard to see how helmets and knee/elbow protective pads should cost 13% more for the girl’s version than the boy’s. Similarly, an equivalent radio flyer scooter was offered at $24.99 while the exact same product in “Sparkle – Pink” cost $49.99.
Children’s clothing ran anywhere from 2% to 13% higher on average for girls’ products except for children’s underwear and toddler shoes, where boys’ products cost 3% more. Adult clothing followed suit, with six out of the seven subcategories having higher costs for women’s products. The one exception? Underwear. (Good luck explaining why men’s underwear costs more — we won’t even try.)
Senior and home health care products averaged an 8% increase in costs for women’s products, covering items such as compression socks, canes, supports and braces, and adult diapers. The one exception in this category was for men’s digestive health products, which cost 5% more than the average women’s product.
Personal care products show the largest discrepancy in pricing, with women’s products costing 13% more on average than equivalent men’s products. Shampoos and conditioners are by far the largest component of the cost difference, with a whopping 48% higher price on average than the corresponding men’s products. Strangely, while women’s razors and cartridges cost 11% more on average than the male equivalents, men’s shaving cream cost 4% more on average.
The New York City DCA study falls in line with a previous study from California in 1994. The State of California found that women in essence paid a gender tax of about $1,351 annually based on pricing and cost discrepancies. Other studies have found similar effects to varying degrees. The DCA study did not estimate an annual amount of a “pink tax,” only noting its existence.
It is possible that there are some legitimate reasons for price discrepancies for women’s products, but it seems likely that there is a simpler explanation — companies charge more because they can. New York City does have a gender-pricing law, but it applies to services and not goods.
Expect more studies of this nature until the “pink tax” can be truly quantified, the causes identified, and the situation corrected to the extent possible. It may not result in laws and ordinances, but at least shining light on the situation is likely to result in some positive changes. Until then, you are better off buying the blue razor over the pink one.