New York City

Women pay more for almost identical products, NYC study confirms

City hopes to eliminate the ‘gender tax’

December 18, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
At one retailer, the scooter shown above, painted pink for girls, was more than twice the cost of the identical scooter painted red for boys. Photo courtesy of the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs
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A New York City study has confirmed what some women have long suspected: products marketed to women and girls cost, on average, 7 percent more than nearly identical items marketed to men and boys.

The city’s Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) compared nearly 800 products with distinct male and female versions sold online and at two dozen New York City stores. Women’s versions of the same products were priced higher 42 percent of the time, the survey found.

In some cases, only the color or packaging changes. In the case of Radio Flyer’s My First Scooter for kids, DCA found that a red scooter, marketed to boys, cost $24.99 at one retailer. The same retailer was found to be selling the identical scooter, but painted pink for girls, for $49.99.

While not all retailers show such extreme differentials in pricing (Target sells both scooters for an almost identical price), the difference still averages out at 7 percent overall.

“That’s horrifying to hear,” said Brooklyn mom Lynn Gordon. “What’s their excuse? How do they get away with it?”

DCA is asking retailers to reevaluate their pricing practices, and is urging women to be wary of the gender-targeted pricing trap when shopping.

“When we know that women continue to make less than men every year, the findings of this study are insult to injury for female consumers,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

“The most basic consumer right is one and the same with the most basic civil right – you should not be treated differently based on your gender and that includes how much you’re charged,” said DCA Commissioner Julie Menin, who released the study with the mayor on Friday.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams called the price difference a “gender tax.”

“It is clear from analysis that women face discrimination as they shop for goods that are nearly identical to male versions,” he said.

The industries studied for the report, titled “From Cradle to Cane: The Cost of Being a Female Consumer,” include toys, clothing for adults and kids, personal care products and home health care products for seniors. The products selected had similar male and female versions and were the closest in branding, ingredients, appearance, textile, and construction.

DCA says these findings suggest that, over the course of a woman’s life, she pays thousands of dollars more than a man to purchase similar products.

The biggest price difference, 13 percent, was for personal care products. The smallest, 4 percent, was for children’s clothing.

While that there may be, at times legitimate reasons behind some portion of the price discrepancies – such as ingredients, textiles and import tariffs – these higher prices are mostly unavoidable to female shoppers, DCA says. Such is the case with almost identical Levi’s 501 jeans. DCA discovered that the male version of 501s cost $68, while the same style of 501s marketed to females cost $88.

Councilmember Robert E. Cornegy Jr., chair of the Small Business Committee, said in a statement that consumers should “speak with their dollars” and avoid unfairly priced consumer goods.

In 1992, DCA found that women were frequently charged more than men for the same services by dry cleaners and hair salons. In 1998, the New York City Council passed a law requiring posted prices to distinguish between charges based on the actual differences that would require more labor. For example, instead of using the terms shirts and blouses, which are inherently gender based, price lists must describe the differences between the garments: shirts with ruffles, shirts with pleats, etc.

 

The study may be found at http://www1.nyc.gov/site/dca/partners/gender-pricing-study.page


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