Why Do Women Pay More?

Studies throughout history have revealed that women tend to pay more than men for the same products.

A 1992 study found that women were twice as likely to be quoted a higher price for a used car, in addition to paying more for everything from haircuts to dry cleaning.

At the time, this was blamed on a lack of transparency. Women simply didn’t know how much men were being charged. That might account for why women didn’t question the discrepancies, but it doesn’t explain why women were charged a higher price to begin with.1

Over the past 50 years, as more women entered the workforce, they’ve learned basic business skills such as negotiation and assessing value versus price. Women as a whole have become more adept at speaking up, questioning authority, voicing their opinions and breaking through the glass ceiling in terms of upward career mobility.

But has all of this knowledge and experience translated into paying the same prices as men? Apparently not.

A new study by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) reveals that women still pay substantially higher prices than men for essentially the same or similar items. The DCA compared the average price for 800 different products.2

On average, women’s products cost more than similar products for men. In fact, the discrepancy starts at very young ages, such as among toys and clothes for children. This calls into question the lack of transparency cited in the 1992 study. A mother shopping for her boys and girls would clearly notice a difference in price.

In the 2015 study, girls’ toys cost more 55 percent of the time, while boys’ toys cost more only 8 percent of the time. When it comes to clothes, girls’ outfits cost more 26 percent of the time, while boys’ clothing cost more only 7 percent of the time.

Personal care products are among the highest markups for women, which cost more 56 percent of the time. This is particularly impactful because personal care products are consumable, purchased throughout the adult life span and women generally purchase them at a higher frequency than other consumer goods. Two of the largest price discrepancies were in hair care products (women pay 48 percent more) and razor cartridges (women pay 11 percent more, on average).

The situation doesn’t appear to get better as you get older. Even senior home health care products cost more for women than for men 45 percent of the time. For example, women’s support braces cost, on average, 15 percent more than men’s. This is particularly interesting when you consider that men’s sizes tend to be larger than women’s.3

When you combine the fact that women pay significantly more than men for many of the same products, and that women historically have tended to live longer than men, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that being a woman, on average, is just plain more expensive than being a man.

When you take into consideration that women’s wages are still only about 78 percent of their male counterparts’ earnings, and that they take more time out of the workforce to care for children and elderly parents, it’s really quite a testament to women that they are able to sustain today’s lifestyle on a household budget.4

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1Bill de Blasio and Julie Menin. New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. Dec. 2015. “From Cradle to Cane:The Cost of Being a Female Consumer.” Accessed Jan. 22, 2016.
4WhiteHouse.gov. 2015. “Your Right to Equal Pay.” Accessed Jan. 6, 2016.

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