Women's Disempowerment and the Market for Skin Whitening Products: Experimental Evidence from India
Posted: 18 Nov 2016
Date Written: November 8, 2016
Free market advocates consider consumer choice unambiguously welfare-enhancing, but critics argue that availability of certain products can be detrimental for society. Contributing to this debate, we study the case of controversial skin whitening products sold widely in emerging markets. Although positioned as empowering female consumers by providing more choice, these have been scrutinized for perpetuating women’s disempowerment by reinforcing sociocultural biases. To test these claims, we experimentally examine a possible relationship between women’s disempowerment and preference for skin whitening products in India, and find some evidence of a positive relationship. Participants primed temporarily to feel more disempowered show greater preference for the stronger (and medically risky) products, but not for the milder ones. Implications from our findings for corporate social responsibility and policy are discussed.
Keywords: Women’s Disempowerment, Skin Whitening Products, Corporate Social Responsibility, Emerging Markets, Experimental Research Design
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