Potty Parity: Process Flexibility via Unisex Restroom
63 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2021 Last revised: 10 Dec 2021
Date Written: December 9, 2021
We study the problem of inequitable access to public restrooms by women and the LGBTQ+ community. Individuals enter a restroom based on their gender identity and the expected (or observed) wait time. We consider two measures of potty parity: first, the conventional wait-time parity, and second, our proposed utility parity, which encompasses both wait time and gender identity to estimate users' utility for using a restroom. We show the benefits of unisex restrooms analytically and from various angles: (1) reducing the wait time for the women's restroom; (2) enhancing the potty parity of wait times and users' utility; (3) increasing users' feelings of safety; and (4) shrinking the wait-time disparity when arrival rates fluctuate. Moreover, we provide insights into both renovating existing buildings and designing restrooms from scratch. In particular, we show the following: (i) The process flexibility of having a one-unit restroom, either by converting a unit of the men's restroom or building an additional one, goes a long way toward improving wait time or user utility, and reducing their disparities. (ii) Building the women's room and the unisex restroom next to each other (such that users can jockey lines) improves potty parity. (iii) Even though an all-unisex restroom leads to complete parity of wait times, surprisingly, it does not improve potty parity, but reverses the ranking of users' utility in the population. (iv) Providing an all-unisex room plus urinal(s) can increase efficiency still more. Lastly, we also provide a numerical study with empirically calibrated parameters to show the magnitude of the impact of unisex rooms in a stadium.
Keywords: gender equality, process flexibility, potty parity, queueing games
JEL Classification: D63, I31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation