What is the Pink Tax? And other Pink Tax questions answered

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The Pink Tax Explained

The Pink Tax Explained

The Pink Tax Explained
What is the Pink Tax? And other Pink Tax questions answered

Justin Lewis/ DigitalVision via Getty Images

Studies (and any run to the grocery store for deodorant or shaving cream) have confirmed femininely coded products are often sold at higher prices than similar masculinely coded ones. That’s just the tip of the pink, floral, vanilla-scented iceberg commonly known as the pink tax. 

First, it’s not an actual tax

First, it’s not an actual tax

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Do not let the moniker mislead you. The pink tax is not a tax. It refers to similar goods and services sold to women at higher prices than to men. While retailers or manufacturers, big or small, may sometimes attribute the price difference to higher production costs, evidence also points to significant price differences among seemingly identical products with different colored packaging.

But menstrual products are taxed

But menstrual products are taxed

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The pink tax speaks to all goods unevenly priced due to perceived gender difference, but the tampon tax knows just one: period products. Unlike the maybe-misnamed pink tax, there is taxing on tampons and other menstrual products. Depending on the state, common grocery and hygiene items may be exempt from statewide sales tax. This includes fruits, canned goods, shampoo, chapstick, prescription drugs and even occasionally over-the-counter ones. Of the 45 states that impose sales taxes, 12 exclude menstrual goods and 33 do not.

Why pink?

Why pink?

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Perceptions of color change over time and pink is one of them. “Pink and Blue,” an article out of the 1918 trade publication “Earnshaw Infant Department,” reads, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls… pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Throughout the early 20th century, retailers disagreed on which color to market to each gender. Not until the ‘40s were the assignments we know today,  solidified. The “pink” tax is thusly named to acknowledge its influence on women’s finances.

Personal care products have the largest cost difference

Personal care products have the largest cost difference

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Some products are more heavily impacted by the pink tax than others. A 2015 study of gender pricing in New York City found that the percentage difference in cost between women’s and men’s products was highest in the personal care industry at 13% across 122 products. Adult clothing and senior/home health care products trailed behind at 8% and toys and accessories at 7%.

Deodorants and shaving creams especially

Deodorants and shaving creams especially

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Looking just at personal care, a 2018 study by the United States Government Accountability Office found that underarm or body deodorants, shaving cream, designer perfumes and mass-market body sprays all targeted to women had a higher average item price and price per ounce or count than similar products targeted to men. Of the five other products studied, two showed no difference and two others (shaving gel and non-disposable razor blade) had higher average prices when targeted toward men than women. Lastly, disposable razor blades had a higher cost per count when femininely coded but not a higher average item price.

It’s not just about goods, but services too

It’s not just about goods, but services too

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Like goods, services have also been found to be priced at gendered rates. A Northwestern University study found that during over-the-phone car negotiations, women who confessed to having no idea of the cost of the service their car required were given an asking price nearly 6% higher than men who also admitted knowing nothing. A price gap was only observed when women exhibited stereotypical naivety. Under all other conditions, women and men were given nearly identical price quotes. Meanwhile, another study found car insurers charge women with perfect driving records higher rates than men with clean records. Differences in rate prices ranged from $100 to over $500.

So women pay more. Do they earn less too?

So women pay more. Do they earn less too?

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Women do not just pay more. On average, they earn less. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women earned 82 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2018, a gender wage gap of 18%. Disparities between white men and Latinas or black women are larger. Latinas earned 54.5% and black women 61.8% of white men’s annual earnings in 2018. Research points to the devaluation of “women’s work” as one of many reasons for the gap. The average median weekly pay for workers in jobs with majority female employees is about 15% lower than those with majority male workers. And men out-earn women in 116 of 120 shared occupations.

Women hold consumer power but the pink tax is heavy

Women hold consumer power but the pink tax is heavy

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Women still hold tremendous consumer power. Nearly 60% of primary household shoppers, those responsible for half or more of the home’s grocery shopping, are women. By buying products themselves and influencing others, women drive 70 to 80% of all consumer purchases. Regardless, the cost of paying the pink tax adds up over time. Advocacy group Ax The Pink Tax estimates that a 30-year-old woman today would have spent over $40,000 on the pink tax so far in her lifetime.

Actions are being taken to combat the pink tax

Actions are being taken to combat the pink tax

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Women are pioneering change worldwide. In 2004, Kenya became the first country to scrap the tampon tax (although affording pricey sanitary pads and tampons remains a challenge for many women and girls.) Similarly, period products are not subject to value-added taxes in Ireland. In February 2020, California Congresswoman Jackie Speier and state Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson unveiled a bill to end gender-based pricing discrimination. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released a similar proposal in 2019 to eliminate the pink tax statewide on substantially similar goods and services.

There are ways around it

You can stop it too

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Knowledge is power. To avoid a "pink tax," test out gender-neutral items or otherwise similar ones targeted to men for a cheaper price. Going one step further, if you notice seemingly gender-biased price discrepancies and reach out to manufacturers and retailers for a response. Taking a stand is one of the things every woman should do in her lifetime

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