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Why is it more expensive to be a woman?

Women's pay may be on the rise, but when it comes to things like health insurance, haircuts, dry cleaning, and deodorant -- women pay more than men. A university study looks into the potential factors behind the price difference.

So, women's pay might be on the rise, but it's still expensive to be a woman. Did you know women pay a billion dollars more for health insurance than men for the same coverage? And that's not all women pay extra for -- we're talking everything from a haircut to deodorant and dry cleaning.

So is this outright gender discrimination or is something else at play here? A study from the University of Central Florida looked at certain products and services to see if women do in fact pay more -- simply because they're women.

Sociologist Megan Duesterhaus co-authored the paper "The Cost of Doing Femininity." She says that these price differences are much more complex. There are some legitimate reasons that women do pay more than men for goods and services -- for example, shirts with embellishments may be more expensive to dry clean than a plain buttondown.

Duesterhaus is careful to point out that her and her co-authors do not call these differences "price discrimination," but rather "price discrepancies." There may be many factors -- such as the cost of perfume or packaging -- that cause women's deodorant to be more expensive than men's that Duersterhaus and her colleagues are not aware of (the study showed that the price difference between men and women's deodorants are 30 cents per ounce).

However, she says that "essentialist thinking" helps push the idea that men and women are entirely different so they need to have separate products, which may have different prices. There are certainly many goods that are unisex, such as toothpaste. But, companies exploit essential thinking by trying to devise ways to push separate products to men and women.

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.

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