Is There A “Pink Tax”?

Is There A “Pink Tax”?

Authored by: Matt Palumbo

The long-debunked “male female wage gap” (that women earn 77 cents to a man’s dollar) has long been the most popular economic statistic from the Left in trying to prove gender discrimination in the economy. As disputed as the reasons for the gender wage gap are, it’s still remained a popular talking point among liberals with a feminist tilt, and it’s spawned a new cousin, the so-called “pink tax.”

The “pink tax” is based off of the claim that female branded products cost more than male branded products, leading to the claim that “women pay more for the exact same products as men.” Think: haircuts, razors, shampoo, etc.  According to a 2015 study by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs:

  • On average, products for women or girls cost 7% more than comparable products for men and boys.
  • Girls’ clothing cost 4% more than boys, and women’s clothing cost 8% more than men’s.
  • Women’s personal care products also cost 13% more than men’s, according to the department’s study.

In quoting a prior study on the matter, the 2015 NYC study states that this “pink tax” costs women an extra $1,351 a year, on average.

An obvious question to ask is, “if women are paying more for identical products, why wouldn’t they just purchase the male equivalent?” And that question alone explains the pink tax. Even the NYC study had to admit that’s the main limitation of the study, that “Men’s and women’s products are rarely identical, making exact comparisons difficult.” Just because two products are similar does not mean they are identical.

For instance, in the case haircuts, women are paying more simply because it tends to take more time/labor to cut women’s hair than men, because women have longer hair. In the case of dry cleaning, women pay more because on average their clothes take more time to dry clean, and requires different machinery than men’s shirts to complete the job. In the case of razors, women’s razors have to be designed to endure more (as men only shave their faces, while women shave legs and armpits). To give just a hint as to how much detail goes into creating something as simple as a razor, the Gillette Mach3 cost an incredible $750 million in research and development to bring to market.

Of course those are just a few examples – so what of other products?

A paper published this year in the journal  Revista Latina de Comunicación Social concluded that:

Results of analysis performed show three facts: first, that the existence of the pink tax, understood as an extra price in identical/ quasi identical products is not significant; second, that price differences in similar products are supported by differences in product features and are potentially generators of value for consumers. And lastly, the enormous offer diversification targeted to women is demonstrated. A wide offer of personal care products is destined to them – without equivalent for men-, a consumption that points at them and moves them closer to a social ideal of beauty linked to success.

Humorously, a table from the study indicates that nearly identical “gendered” products actually cost slightly less for women. It’s only those gendered products with functional differences that cost more.

Much like the wage gap, the pink tax is a “sexism of the gaps” type of argument. Those using it as an argument are noticing a disparity – and then assuming the only possible explanation could be sexism. I’m honestly at a loss for words at what the point of pushing this myth even is. If it were true you’d think those pushing it would just buy the supposedly identical “male” products and stop complaining.

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