Gender-Based Pricing in Consumer Packaged Goods: A Pink Tax?
24 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2021 Last revised: 15 Mar 2023
Date Written: December 16, 2021
This paper investigates a controversial application of a textbook pricing practice: gender-based
price segmentation, which has allegedly created a pink tax whereby products targeted
at women are more expensive than comparable products marketed toward men. Our results
shed light on the form and magnitude of gender-based pricing for personal care products. We
find that gender segmentation is ubiquitous, as more than 80% of products sold are gendered.
Further, we show that segmentation involves product differentiation; there is little overlap in
the formulations of men’s and women’s products within the same category. Using a national
dataset of grocery, convenience, drugstore, and mass merchandiser sales, we demonstrate that
this differentiation sustains large price differences for men’s and women’s products made by the
same manufacturer. In an apples-to-apples comparison of women’s and men’s products with
similar ingredients, however, we do not find evidence of a systematic price premium for women’s
goods: price differences are small, and the women’s variant is less expensive in three out of five
categories. Our findings are consistent with the ease of arbitrage in posted price markets where
consumer packaged goods are sold. These results call into question the need for and efficacy of
recently proposed and enacted pink tax legislation, which mandates price parity for substantially
similar gendered products.
Keywords: Price Discrimination, Gender, Pink Tax
JEL Classification: L66, M31, D63
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation