Thursday, December 24, 2015

Gender differences in consumer prices

Robin Hanson lists a few theories attempting to explain why female-version products are often more expensive than male versions. Here's an interesting one:
Female versions of products might sell fewer units because women just buy fewer of the sorts of products that have similar male versions, because women are buying more of other kinds of products instead.
Many of these theories are at least plausible, and it's important to note that any purchasing differences between men and women are not necessarily driven by biology; the nature/nurture debate in gender behavior is quite inconclusive.

The quote above is actually a great example of the difficulty involved in teasing out discrimination vs behavioral differences in gender, and how discrimination at one level in a causal chain can cause gender differences in consumer behavior at another level.

For the set of products that have very similar gendered versions (i.e. the only difference is pink vs blue), if fewer female versions are sold, a higher price would be reasonably expected. But I suspect that for many of these products, adding a "pink" version is more likely to be an afterthought or add-on to the overall product strategy. Skewed gender targeting in product design/marketing strategy might be caused by subtle discrimination in organization culture (engineering is disproportionately male), or it might be the opposite: manufacturer's being diligent about offering both male/female versions for many products. But a slight gender bias in products with similar gendered versions would have the same effect, changing the demand for male/female versions and shifting prices a bit.

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