Updated: Oct 18, 2021
Clothing, body wash, razors, haircuts, dry cleaning, toys, school uniforms, canes, braces, adult diapers; these are all items that women pay more for than men. On average, women in the United States spend 42% more money on personal products than their male counterparts.
The “Pink tax” is the extra amount of money that women pay for feminine services and products. “The tampon tax,” “price discrimination,” and “gender pricing” are other names used to describe this gender-based price descrimination women face.
Women Pay More Than Men For Products From Conception to Cane
The pink tax begins at birth. Across the six-product categories of toys, the “girls” items are consistently pricier than the “boys.” The most significant difference in prices can be found in helmets and knee or elbow pads. Girls’ helmets are 13% higher on average than boys’ helmets.
A study conducted by Boomerang Commerce found that pink toys, compared to other colors, ranged from 2% to 15% more expensive.
From here, the tax continues to cost women. In a single shopping trip, an American female can expect to pay 13% more than an American male for personal care products like deodorant, shampoo, razors, and body wash among other things.
Purchasing necessary hygiene products, such as pads and tampons is also expensive. Although non-luxury items like groceries and prescriptions are exempt from tax sales in the majority of states, most states tax tampons and sanitary pads.
Furthermore, the pink tax affects women when they make larger purchases, such as a car or a house. Urban Institute found that while women repay their mortgages more reliably than men do, women have a harder time than men in securing their home mortgage, and often pay higher interest rates when they buy homes.
In a controlled study by Northwestern University, they found that women were quoted $23 more than men for identical car repairs. The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs similarly discovered that when buying a used car, a woman is twice as likely to be quoted a higher price than a man.
These costs build up over time. By her 30s a woman would’ve paid more than $40,000 due to the pink tax phenomenon. By their sixties, a woman will have paid roughly $82,000 in fees that men do not have to pay.
Pink Tax Emerges After More Women Become Financially Independent
The pink tax phenomenon has been around for “decades.” When the United States first began drafting the sales tax system in the mid 1900’s, politicians chose which items would be subjected to a sales tax. 120 years ago, a very different dynamic existed in America. “It was a world in which it was single-income families with men working and women staying at home,” according to Co-founder of PeriodEquity.org, Laura Strausfeld.
Back in the day, feminine expenses were there, but were borne by a household. Nowadays, they may be carried by women alone. The pink tax emerged as a result of women advancing in the workforce, and growing independent from men.
Pink Tax Leads to Period Poverty
Not only are women taxed for essential hygiene products, but many are often unable to get or afford the items in the first place due to a lack of resources and money. This is called period poverty.
Stigma around menstruation runs rampant around the globe. Women across the world are shamed for their periods on a regular basis. Numerous females are forced into menstrual huts away from their village, while others are not allowed around men as they are viewed as “unclean.”
In the U.S., free pads and tampons are often not available in schools, and women and girls are unable to afford menstrual materials because of the pink tax. “Too many people cannot pay for [menstrual supplies] at all and are often torn between purchasing food or menstrual supplies,” according to The Global Citizen.
A lack of period products can lead to poor menstrual hygiene. This is an issue, as it poses physical health risks such as urinary tract infections and reproductive issues.
With COVID-19 causing economic issues worldwide, the number of people facing period poverty has risen sharply. Community centers that usually distribute menstrual supplies have closed down, and poverty has left some women unable to afford period products.
Pink Tax Can Be Avoided
Shopping smarter can help prevent consumers from spending more money than necessary. Instead, women can “comparison shop,” which means they select“mens” razors, shampoo, or other unisexpersonal care products.