Women’s Disempowerment and Preference for Risky Skin Whitening Products: Experimental Evidence from India
31 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2016 Last revised: 18 Apr 2019
Date Written: April 17, 2019
Free market advocates consider consumer choice unambiguously welfare-enhancing but consumers are often unable to make choices aligned with their well-being, and being disempowered might sometimes drive preference for products with questionable impact. We contribute to this debate on corporate responsibility and social prejudice related to skin color in the context of women making decisions regarding skin whitening products widely available in emerging markets. Specifically, we experimentally examine whether or not being in a state of psychological disempowerment influences Indian women’s preference for skin whitening products. Two experiments, using distinct samples of Indian population, find a positive effect of disempowerment on preference for the strong and risky skin whitening products but not for the milder skin whitening products. These findings are unique to women, and are particularly prominent among those women who use skin whitening products regularly. Implications for business ethics and public policy are discussed.
Keywords: Business Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility, Public Policy, Gender, Colorism, Experimental Design
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