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.
Log in to post5 Comments

Funny how women make less money but spend more money than men. I wonder how that works. Oh, yeah, through legal and illegal "prostitution." I guess Darwin was wrong. The things women will do to get by amaze me...they just close their eyes and sacrifice self-dignity everyday.

econ101: I am glad that someone agrees with me on this issue. I understand that women have certain issues that make it more difficult or more expensive to be a woman, but a good report would have made sure to include the other side. Feminism makes me mad because the more vocal people only speak of how WOMEN are hurt in this country and not men. Feminism is supposed to be about equality for the sexes and not just bringing men down.

I'm sure that you've heard from some feminists that pointing out the instances that men get the short end of the stick "takes away from the bigger issue" which I assume is that women are systematically discriminated against whereas men are not. I've heard this on a few different occasions and it irks me every time.

If you fight for equality, then fight for EQUALITY.

This story was a classic example of left leaning, feminist reporting designed to elicit passions, while checking brains at the door. NPR needs to do better. At the end of the story, we learn nothing because each time the author is careful to say "this isn't necessarily price discrimination, it's just a disparity." Well then what't the point of the whole exercise? Why not at least thrown in one where men pay more than women for the same thing. Drink specials are a classic case college students will recognize and is on par with the deoderant example.. Also, look at college tuition averages (men pay more, white men the most -- what are we to make of this? systematic discrimination?!?). A responsible report would have at least asked if the healthcare costs for a women are in fact more than a man (ie, are they in factmore risky). The author sure didn't mind or point out that men pay more for auto insurance -- significantly more, and didn't suggest this was the result of some systematic discrimination by auto insurers.

With Generous Support From...