The Price of Pink

By Kendyl Brower 

Pink is my favorite color. From beauty products to stationary, I always find myself  gravitating toward the vibrant color while shopping. However, the pretty pink packaging can be deceiving, as pink packaged goods retail for a much heftier price than plain packaged versions of the same product. The cause? Third degree price discrimination. This common business practice alters the prices on certain products depending on particular groups of consumers in order to effectively price items. Consequently, women must pay the pink tax, a phenomenon where women pay more for essentially the same product. According to a study from the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, women can pay up to 13% more for certain items including  toys, self care products, and clothes. 

Economists justify the more expensive goods for various reasons. Primarily, since women control over 85% of consumer purchases, brands create various products to offer a multitude of options. Walk down the personal care aisle in any given store and you’ll find a vast array of products marketed specifically for women. The pink tax enables the variety in the market, it’s why there are a plethora of different kinds of women’s shampoos and deodorants. Moreover, the mindset for many companies is simply why not? If women are willing to pay a bit more for superficial variants like color and packaging, knocking up the price is a given. 

While I do see reason with the economic justifications of the pink tax, it feels morally wrong to systematically charge one group of people more money. The main argument from an economics standpoint is that the pink tax accounts for the variety of products— yet with the lack of real qualitative differences among these so called variants, women are just paying more for marketing. 

The solution to the pink tax seems clear: just buy the cheaper male alternative. But in certain cases, the higher prices are simply unavoidable. The Government Accountability Office just released staggering data that emphasizes gender inequalities of pricing. Women across the military pay higher bills for essential uniform items. Notably, over 20 years, female enlisted Marines pay 10 times more than their male counterparts, female soldiers will pay double, and women in the Navy will pay triple for uniforms. As well, services such as dry cleaners, hair salons, and vehicle repair shops upcharge women. Sometimes, the increased price proves reasonable, since it requires more effort to cut a woman’s hair or iron a women’s blouse.  But more often than not, services charge women more just because they can. The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs found women paying 30% more for car repairs and 0.4% more for mortgage interest rates— services that are not more labor intensive for women specifically. Evidently, avoiding the pink tax has more depth than simply buying men’s products.

Thankfully, California, Florida, New York, and a few other states have already enacted regulations to prevent services from discriminatory pricing. As well, New York implemented a ban on the pink tax on Oct 1, 2020, prohibiting retailers from charging different prices for substantially similar goods. Hopefully other states will follow in New York’s footsteps to help curb gender based price discrimination.