Women's Products Costing More Than Men's

There’s a study out from the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs that has attracted some media attention. The study purports to show that women pay, on average, 7% more than men for similar products. Question is whether and why this is so (and what if anything should be done about it). Some observations:

[ul]
[li]The study acknowledges that “male and female versions of products often differ from one another in branding, construction, and ingredients. However, individual consumers do not have control over the textiles or ingredients used in the products marketed to them and must make purchasing choices based only on what is available in the marketplace”. This seems to be an acknowledgment that it’s possible that in some cases the products that appeal to women are slightly more expensive than those which appeal to men, and their counterpoint is that a given woman who prefers a lower cost item is constrained by the fact that mass production is aimed at a different market than her. I don’t see this as being a gender issue. That’s part of life, and anyone whose preferences are not aligned with the masses will suffer similarly. (See also the comment about trimmings on girls clothing, on page 27.)[/li][li]In the clothing section, the study found that, on average, the lower cost clothing tended to be cheaper for women than for men, and the higher end clothing cheaper for men than for women.[/li][li]ISTM that in some instances (most glaringly the comparison of scooters) the study didn’t compare men’s and women’s items, but compared unisex and women’s items. In such cases, the women’s items will be specialty items and will tend to be priced higher.[/li][li]In some cases, the study acknowleged that women’s items cost more to manufacture, but asserted that experts they had consulted with had declared that this did not account for the full price differential. This seems to be a weak point in the study.[/li][li]To the extent that there are cases in which the identical products are priced differently, then women could buy the men’s version of those products. (This would not apply to clothing or items specifically contoured to the male/female body, but would apply to things like razors or hair care.)[/li][li]The study itself did not attempt - from what I saw - to explain why the pricing differentials exist, other than to cast doubt on whether they were due to different costs, or explain why in many cases men’s products cost more.[/li][/ul]
[The above assumes that the comparisons chosen were randomly chosen and not skewed in an effort to justify the existence of the task force.]

I was just reading the Washington Post’s article about that. There are some most informative comments. For instance there’s one which notes that the products were priced differently so that they could make the same profit. Another comment notes that the increased diversity of products for a function means that each product has a smaller production run and therefore each unit cost more to produce as the economics of scale were reduced.

I started off incensed at the apparent anti-female bias of the pricing and left feeling that the reporter had done a poor job.

All I know is that women’s clothing is typically rather thin and flimsy compared to similar men’s clothing.

Could it just be supply-and-demand? Women appear to be into shopping more than men* and thus there could be more demand for those products.

(*-based on purely anecdotal data.)

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that demand for womens’ products outstripped supply by a greater margin than mens’, womens’ products would be more profitable and thus more manufacturing resources would have been allocated to making them. So the prices should have equalized, and haven’t.

Since there are just as many female consumers as male ones there’s no reasons why either of these things makes sense (except perhaps in the case of bright pink things, which would largely appeal only to women while red, blue, green and so on have cross-gender appeal).

Here’s an example given by one of the commenters:

I don’t know whether this is true; and if it is true, I don’t know why there would be more different varieties of razors for women than for men. But if it is true, it does make sense that each variety might therefore sell in smaller quantities and therefore be more expensive to produce or stock.

I used to stock shelves at Eckerd and the quantity of razors available to women was exactly the same as the quantity available to men. If anything, the opposite should be true since men are more likely to go electric and I don’t know any women who use electric shavers on their legs.

Tyler Cowen, at Marginal Revolution, offers this comment:

Basically, when you study (as this study did) goods that are explicitly gendered, you’re only studying a subset of actual gendered purchasing, so you might not be measuring what you think you’re measuring.

Stereos and televisions don’t come in pink and blue, but my experience is that men are much more likely to buy the expensive ones than women are.

I can provide anecdotal evidence that men are more price-conscious when it comes to things like clothing and hygiene products. My hair’s short. I’ll buy whatever shampoo is cheap. I’m not judged nearly as harshly on my appearance, I’ll buy clothes as long as they fit ok and aren’t hideous. I will totally buy the pink razor if it’s cheaper.

In fact, that last bit might explain part of this effect. The women who are price-conscious are just buying the male-branded stuff, which means the market for it is bigger, and economies of scale come into play. Positive feedback keeps the women-branded products more expensive.

Since men are a lot more likely to be color-blind, it’s entirely possible that some guys would buy pink razors without even knowing that they’re shrugging.

You just don’t get more masculine than that.

Talk about your first world problems.

This is nothing new, the differential in pricing has been reported throughout my many decades on the Og forsaken planet. It’s nothing but supply and demand, and mainly the demand, women will pay the additional price. There are justifications for some of the disparity, a woman’s haircut will take longer than a man’s, dry cleaning for women’s clothes will cost more because they are often more complicated clothes and may be made of delicate material. On the other hand, some women will want a simple haircut, or wear a simple shirt, and end up paying more than a man would for the same service. There’s not supposed to be any guarantee of fairness in pricing for men’s and women’s products, it’s up to the market to stop paying more if the prices are going to go down.

I do laundry for an adult and an infant female. It was eye-opening to note that apparently they make clothes that either have pockets too tiny for actual use, or sewn completely shut (and no actual pouch inside).

How a man buys pants:
Go to an online store, pick one that has a size in inches (in the US). They fit and cost $20.

How a woman buys pants:
Go to a physical store, try on multiple pairs that are given an arbitrary size number which varies completely between different stores, or even within the same brand and store. Or, buy online and inevitably return it for a different size. They cost $80.

I also notice that women are more likely to have clothes that say dry-clean only, and it seems to me that the material doesn’t warrant this and a men’s version would be machine washable. This may be confirmation bias though.

What should be done? Nothing, it’s not anything organic. Women can buy simpler clothing but it’s easier to sell designer-type stuff to women. Not that I haven’t known men who are incredibly brand-conscious about clothing.

Womens’ pants are definitely cheaper than mens’. Compare jeans at Old Navy, for example.

There isn’t anything unjust in the examples given and nothing should be done about it at least on a legislative or even social activist level. Women are free to be as frugal or extravagant as they want and there are plenty of choices in almost every category. The bulk pack of blue disposable razors I buy once a year from a wholesale club work just as well on women as they do for men.

If you wanted to be truly fair and comprehensive about this type of study, it would have to be a lot more extensive and include many things that they didn’t. What about items that target men buying gifts for women like jewelry, flower arrangements, fancy beauty products and other luxury items? The women’s versions almost always cost more but they aren’t usually the ones paying for it. What about the custom of men paying for dates and even routine nights out? That isn’t equitable either.

I have a strong suspicion that, if you added everything up diligently, the men would be the ones paying more overall in general but that is so obvious that it doesn’t make for a good “news” story. Instead, you have carefully cherry pick the exceptions and compile those into one study so that you can generate some controversy. It didn’t work in this case because the author didn’t make any sort of compelling case even with carefully selected examples.

Yeah this is why I always brought razors and shaving cream for men and not the kind for women! I could care less about using pink shaving cream and razors ! I hate the color pink and not about to spend more money for a smaller can of shaving cream b/c it has some stupid flowers on it.

It looks like most of the comments in this thread are framing this as a discussion over whether the discrepancy should be chalked up to something blameworthy or not.

This misses the point.

The point is: Women should buy masculine-marketed products if they want to pay less for the same quality of product.

That’s the conclusion i came to reading this. Nothing stops women from buying products marketed to men, if the men’s products are better or cheaper why not buy them instead.

While I don’t think the free market is the solution to a lot of problems, I feel this is one that is. If the cost of manufacturing an item intended for women is the same or cheaper than an equivalent men’s item, then someone will sell it cheaper to get the sales.

Even if we accept the concept that women’s items have unfairly high prices, what would the solution be? Government price controls?

This. I was an engineer in the 70’s as was my husband. His shirts cost 1/2 as much as my blouses and when we sent them to cleaners it cost 2-3 times as much to get mine laundered. “Something, something about standard male sizes costing less to iron.” I also noted that his shirts lasted forever and my blouses started falling apart within one year Luckily the 70s were a great time for pastels for men. I immediately stopped buying women’s blouses and instead bought men’s oxfords! To this day I still wear men’s shirts: they last forever and don’t cost a fortune.

I bought one of those “women” razors way back in the day, the one that was almost a circle, bleh. Men’s razors from then on.

Yeah right.

Different brands have different sizes. My grandma told me 20-some years ago that you can’t go by the claimed size–you have to measure. I’ve seen that time and time again, as have other people. Sometimes even the same brand will have significant variation, due to the nature of mass production.

And then you’ve got relaxed fit vs regular, etc.

Actually, there are exceptions to this. Men’s hairspray, for example - my store carries only one brand and it’s 2-3 times the cost of the comparable woman’s brand. Which is why some savy men purchase unscented women’s hairspray.

There is definitely a trend to price upscale men’s stuff higher these days.

Thing is, which store you go to will affect what is offered as well. The store I work at has a much larger selection of razors for men.

The only circumstance in which the difference between men’s and women’s razors is a practical factor is with the larger electric razors - women tend to have smaller hands and grips and the gendered razors are (sometimes) designed with that in mind. Men’s razors are also more likely to have replacement blades/rotary heads for sale, and more elaborate cleaning systems which may have something to do with men’s beards giving razors more of a work out than the (usually) sparser and finer women’s facial and body hair.

But yeah, cheap packs of disposables, and even some of the mid-range stuff, is essentially the same razor in a different bag, maybe with a different color scheme.

Speaking as someone actually colorblind, the inability of the typical colorblind person to distinguish one color from another is greatly over-assumed. While there are some people that impaired many “colorblind” people actually can distinguish colors fairly well under typical circumstances.

Except for those items marketed to men where there is a markup, right?

There is also a LOT of social conditioning factoring in. There are people who will not purchase something for the other gender no matter what. For everyone women who comes in to purchase men’s deodorant for herself there’s a man purchasing women’s deodorant for himself and 3-5 people who’d rather die than buy the “wrong” deodorant. I already mentioned the men’s hairspray thing.

There’s another effect with people rigidly dividing between “children’s” and “adult” versions of a product. One lady complaining about walking all the way across the store to get one bottle of baby powder for the kid and another for herself and her husband. It’s the same damn thing. I know this for a fact because I stock the shelves and the bottles come out of the same box. Didn’t ask how she distinguished which was which until she got them home and in the proper area to keep each. I just nod and try to keep the customer happy.

Although sometimes you can’t even do that - there’s one customer who is VERY upset that my employer is “forcing” the female employees to wear MEN’S POLO SHIRTS! The horror! Seriously, she complains to the store management about this on a regular basis. Frankly, I don’t think most of the staff even notice unless someone like her points it out (it’s how the buttons button).

So don’t discount the effect of social conditioning on these things. Both people who will jump the gender line in search of price and/or quality, and those who can’t be convinced that the men’s and women’s products are exactly the same except perhaps for coloring or packaging, and those who will not step out of socially mandated roles no matter what.