More from Robin Hanson on sexist pricing, which might just be sampling bias

I’d guess women actually do tend to have a higher taste for quality and variety within this category of [regular] products. But I still doubt that women have higher taste for quality and variety overall. Instead it seems to me that the sorts of products that can have similar male and female versions tend to be lower-quality less-varied more-commodity-like sorts of products.

Women could have a higher taste for quality among lower quality products, and still have the same overall taste for quality, if women have less tolerance for variation in quality across product categories. That is, men may be more willing to save via lower quality in some areas, in order to pay for higher quality in other areas. In contrast, women may seek a more consistent level of quality across many product categories. Women may be more afraid someone will judge them badly from one particular unusually low quality category, while men may hope someone will judge them well from one particular unusually high quality category. This theory fits with many other results suggesting that men are and seek higher variance, and have less conformity.

His post is here.

I would offer the following (speculative) generalization.  Guys are more likely to “just buy any usable sock,” whereas women are more likely to want “the right socks.”  Therefore socks for guys end up being cheaper, because male price elasticity is higher.

Yet guys are more likely to spend a lot to buy the most expensive stereo system, or the most expensive car, or make the biggest charitable donation.  There may not be coexisting “male” and “female” versions of these goods, as with pink vs. blue razors, but still the men pay big compared to the women.

The now-famous WaPo Danielle Paquette piece oversamples “regular goods” and undersamples the goods where males end up paying more.  Therefore it looks like women are getting ripped off, but in reality we don’t know the net effect.

Bryan Caplan had a hand in this lunch discussion too, I ordered halal fish and chips, Bryan let me take his extra spinach.


There is also an element of political ideology to be considered. Liberal women choose more gender neutral products for their daughters while conservative women choose more feminine products for their daughters. You will find more gendered products in conservative areas.

Liberal women end up paying more for all products that can be gendered because the seller cannot tell what is the political ideology of the customer and has no incentive to price discriminate. This would include things like haircuts, shampoo, shoes, etc.

The problem is conservative women.

Conservative woman here. I don't shop by gender except for clothing (because, for example, if I buy a 27" men's waist pants, the endeavor will be thwarted by my 32" hips). I have purchased "men's" razors, deodorant etc. since I was a teen and began shopping for myself because, duh I can read, so it was obvious to me that if two products that were exactly the same except for color or fragrance then only an idiot will pay more for pink plastic handles rather than green plastic handles and so on. Forty years later, and I think anyone who doesn't know about the "pink tax" is an idiot and deserves to be had, and that anyone that is only understanding this now because a member of the academe pointed it out to them is an idiot, and that anyone who attempts to make this about women who prefer interventionist government versus women who prefer limited government is a misogynistic prick who is so feeble minded that blaming Republicans is the best he's got.

Otoh, sexism wouldn't exist if stupid women wouldn't buy into it and collude with others to encourage women to sell themselves short. Including not reading labels to recognize that two products are exactly the same despite their color/fragrance/price difference.

Oh wait, but haircuts! I'm being had! It takes my stylist 3 hours to cut,color, style my hair. How is that not worth more than a $45 20 minutes man's cut? Answer: it is worth more which is why I pay more. Not the same service, therefore not the same price.

Idk why this is so difficult and revolutionary news for people.

Do conservative women get trolled more often than liberal women?

The haircut part of the article was the biggest joke. I know no woman who can have her hair cut in less than twice the time it takes me to have mine done.

Add in all the hair product that goes along with it, while I have none.

"Although negotiated prices in consumer markets are rare in North America today, two important exceptions|housing and automobiles|make up the biggest purchases in most consumers' lives...Older consumers perform worse in new car negotiations...We then show that the worst performing groups are also the least likely to participate in this market"

This is a very interesting paper (of course, with no release of the data to other researchers - but that is a different story). However, I find the results implausible. The "dealer cost" of a vehicle is taken as the invoice amount. This is not truly the dealer's cost since they receive rebates. If they sell a car at the invoice price they will be making a profit. Despite this, the average dealer margin (sales price - invoice price) is on the order of $1000 per car. I find this hard to believe. For example, most Subaru dealers sell their cars for the invoice price (or plus $100). It doesn't take much shopping (or any, really, since this is what you get if you ask for an online quote) to find this out. Yet the data shows an average margin of around $1000. I simply don't believe this data. But of course I have no way of verifying it.

Halal is anti-Sikh. Shame!

ugh. what?

As someone who has thought about selling "premium" products, you will often find them in areas where people have an interest in the field vs. pragmatic use.

Think skiing or wind-sailing or bicycling. Or guitars...musicians are notorious hobby spenders.

People will spend a ton on some notionally superior product if its their love.

Women desire beauty, therefore they will spend more on such products. Its not that difficult.

A great counter-example is children's furniture. Lordy the prices are low! You'd think parents pay more for safety and such.

Nope! The cheapest possible product possible, please! We once designed a killer kids easel. Price was too high - all the buyers loved it, but it was too much. I followed the market for a while and the prices become amazingly low. As in, I have no idea how you could make it that cheap. Stolen wood and slave labor.

Have you heard of Land of Nod? They manufacture children's furniture, and I'm facing the opposite surprise--it seems to be fairly high quality, but the prices are very high.

It's true that the major "lifestyle" furniture chains have kids divisions, pottery barn kinds, restoration hardware child, etc. land of no is owned by crate & barrel. The prices are similar the grown up parents, however, these stores are a small part of the kids furniture market.

Maybe you should consider price-per-use instead of simply price?

We spent a fortune for our bed, but we've had it for 15 years and continue to use it. We purchased a nice, but not extravagant crib, at least in part because it would only be used for a few years. Infants usually don't have a well developed fashion sense either.

For infant goods, the secondary market constrains the price of new goods. The child's outgrows the goods well before they wear out, and fashion conscious parents who would not be caught dead in a thrift store don't blink before Craigslisting for a crib.

And nobody in this important economic question asked the vendors why?

Basic pricing. As high as possible, constrained by competitive pressure and demand, with some distribution and manufacturing costs as a base point.

Prices are information. Maybe pricing tells us that men and women are different, want different things, value different things. This is very basic marketing. We already know that, but get all disturbed when there is some evidence?

Products where I expect me pay more, by buying premium/deluxe versions:

Scotch whiskey

Sounds like a manly mindset to me.

My Wife's attitude on such things is "buy the cheapest stuff possible." Humorous story: she once went to the store to buy Vokda and returned with a bottle of Bacardi rum. It's clear, so that means it's vodka, right?

The women folk in my personal life generally tend to be frugal and the men folk splurge on their hobbies. Outside my social circle, oh my god, DESIGNER EVERRRRRRYYYYYTTTTHINNGGGG!!! for the women folk.

Shoes! Shoes! Shoes! What the hell is up with the goddam shoes?

My wife is fairly frugal, but is highly conscious of "looking good" for her female friends. There's something going on between women that I don't quite understand as a guy. I look at some of the silly things women buy each other for Christmas, and again, I just don't understand.

And nobody in this important economic question asked the vendors why?

Of course not. Actual information takes all the fun out of it. Gathering it is work, and you don't get nearly the same ego trip.

BY - I keep hoping for the day when you give a non-sarcastic, constructive comment to a post. Seriously, you come off as a bitter dude who can't stand it when someone disagrees with you.

I doubt the vendors would give an honest answer.

Why do you say that? To a journalist, of course not, that would be like giving a prostitute your home phone number.

Walmart associates carry a gizmo that tells them the costs and expected markup. The guys working for me know the costs and selling prices of what we do. I spent a day trying to find grizzly bears with a guy who did inventory consulting, learning the fine points of stocking items that brought people into the store even if they weren't big sellers. I could probably learn the local grocery store pricing strategies from the assistant manager if i took him for lunch.

This referenced article is about an axe to grind. Reality is far more prosaic.

"... women actually do tend to have a higher taste for quality...."

That would be PERCEIVED quality, which isn't the same as actual quality, depending of course, on what is meant by quality in the first place. One person's perception of the quality of an item might be quite different than that of another. It's not necessarily indicated by price, either. Some generic food products are indistinguishable from those sold as premium. Clothes of some more expensive labels are of the same quality as their cheaper cousins but they are worn as signals, not because they are more attractive, fit better or last longer. See the "Off Duty" section of the weekend WSJ.

Some generic food products are indistinguishable from those sold as premium.

IIRC, some generic food products are exactly the same as brand goods, produced by the same company

Generally, the additives (check into ADM's Wild - ) will be slightly different mixtures, thus creating a slightly different product. At a level which will in no way, shape, or form be noted in the ingredient list, and which may also be meaningless, depending on one's own ability to note such differences in the generaly ever present additive mixtures.

It seems like a bad idea to give that rag clicks for their crappy clickbait. Why not use DoNotLink or some other way to deny them ad revenue? All they're doing is poisoning discourse, and we shouldn't encourage them.

I think it's fair to argue that the article might have a sampling bias and your speculative potential explanations are also potentially important. However, it's worth noting that price discrimination is much easier when people are unaware and for many users the consumer surplus is large. Most people are uncomfortable with all but certain types of price discrimination (classics are students, children, seniors). Even then toleration is mild and people feel almost no moral obligation not to game the prices. For example how many people do you think 1 year out of college would refuse to take a student discount if they still had their student ID?

So I think the question is what if a movie theater tried to explicitly charge a different male / female rate? This tried to charge differently for different colors so somehow it's easy to "excuse". If the pieces of it were priced individually "bike + custom paint" or something like that it would seem absurd. With digital goods it's much easier to do this as well. For a while amazon tried charging different prices to different customers explicitly. Once it became public they quickly had to stop.

There are (at least) 3 potential "prices" for most commodity goods: A) social, B) reputation, and C) monetary
It's very hard to only temporarily sacrifice one to do more in the other. Also sometimes the incentives to increase A or B in the long run (and C in the long run) counter C in the short run.

The classic example I use for this is Ticketmaster. They do not have a reputation to uphold to sell tickets at "fair" (low) prices to have happy customers. Ticketmaster is fine with their repeat customers hating them, in fact you could argue it's their value add. Performers, sports teams, etc do care about their customers not hating them. But if it turned out that the profit-maximizing price for an Adelle concert was $1000 per ticket she would probably still not benefit from selling at that price because she wants a full crowd (for the experience of the customers and the reputation) and a continued fan base. Not this doesn't mean she can't do a private concert for 50 people at 100k, it just means she can't do a public concert at anywhere near that price.

Where does the saying 'a woman will pay $1 for a $2 thing she does not need while a man will pay $2 for a $1 thing he needs' fit in with all this?

The time value of money?

"halal fish..."
Isn't Halal a more cruel way of killing an animal?

Where do you get that idea?

From Wikipedia:

The animal cannot be stunned prior to having its throat cut. The British Veterinary Association, along with citizens who have assembled a petition with 100,000 signatures, have raised concerns regarding a proposed halal abattoir in Wales, in which animals are not to be stunned prior to killing.Concern about slaughtering, without prior stunning, has resulted in the religious slaughter of animals being banned in Denmark, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

Huh. I imagine that getting stunned probably hurts more than bleeding out to oblivion from a razor sharp cut to the jugular.

This is what I call balloon animal political correctness. The contortions necessary to even pretend to believe this would make a clown jealous.

you have lunch with caplan and eat his left over spinach. we here at the factory make fun of his graphic novel and hope to god he doesn't have any influence on our bosses.

Counter example: one way for gents to save money is to buy vaginal lotrimin instead of foot lotrimin for athlete's foot. Same stuff.

A rare moment of actual learning from the comments section; thank you!

lol @fwiw +1

They wouldn't, though. Someone might spot it in their medicine cabinet.

We pay a premium for stuff that helps us boost our status. These goods are often different for men and women.

What I came here to say.

What about $20,000 purses?

As a man, I specifically buy women's socks because they're cheaper. The follow socks are identical but the woman's is $1 cheaper:

I find that, high-end designer labels aside, women's clothes are generally cheaper and of lower quality. That makes sense. Women value clothing variety more than men do. The NYC Consumer Affairs report gave the example of identically named Levi's jeans that were cheaper for men. But if you browse the Levi's website, you'll find that the most expensive jeans are men's. Women may buy the $50 501 jeans but men may buy the $128 Made in the USA 501 shrink-to-fit selvedge jeans which doesn't even exist for women.

Toys are interesting because it's not the kids who are buying them. Fathers could be buying them for their daughters. I'm not sure of the reason why girl's toys seem to be more expensive, at least in the study sample, but I would point out that boy's toys are more unisex than girl's toys which are invariably gender-specific.

'But if you browse the Levi’s website, you’ll find that the most expensive jeans are men’s. Women may buy the $50 501 jeans but men may buy the $128 Made in the USA 501 shrink-to-fit selvedge jeans which doesn’t even exist for women.'

So, men's bras are cheaper than women's, but men's jocks are more expensive than women's? Or is the fact that a product doesn't even exist for a woman (you may not be aware of this, but men and women actually have different pelvic structures, meaning that most pants made for men won't fit most women past puberty, or vice versa) mean little when attempting to make a point?

You may not be aware of this but there is nothing inherent gender-specific about raw selvedge jeans. Levi's makes 501's for women which is what the NYC Consumer Affairs report compared. Levi's does not make raw selvedge for women. My point stands. Comparable products might not accurately reflect comparable purchases.

"Second, women might be less aggressive in searching for lower prices for similar products and in switching when such prices are found. Women might instead be more loyal to prior suppliers and brands, and feel worse about betraying previous brands by switching."

I agree with this part of Robin Hanson's post. My "gut" feeling is that women aren't as likely to scrounge around for the lowest price. When I go to the grocery with my wife, for instance, I'm always grabbing stuff out of the cart and replacing it with generics, or finding that item that's on sale on the bottom shelf at better price, etc. I think guys also might be more likely to be more number oriented. I remember prices much more than my wife. If I ask her what something costs she will likely never know. I'm the one who watches the register when things ring up to make sure the price is what was marked, and I remember item prices better over time. I'm not sure how far this generalizes, if at all.

Is it possible women are less concerned with the prices than men in many cases? Possible imho. In my wife's case, she values speed when shopping. I'm more analytical about the process, and she gets impatient with all the price comparisons I make, and my willingness to try bargain brands or things on sale. And she may be right - I might be wasting her time standing around surveying options.

I don't think you're wrong, that garbage adds up quick. A few dollars more on a few products and you're talking about an additional 15-20 every week easily for just 2 people, which becomes a vacation over 52 weeks.

My Wife did not understand the concept of "buying in bulk." She lived in apartments and dorms for 10 years. You buy what you need and carry it. Why bother buying tomato sauce when it's half off? You don't need it right now!

Hell no, the house came with a pantry for a reason.

Never will there be a day that Tyler blogs about a topic that pertains to how women are different and the comments aren't hilarious.

I almost think Tyler has developed some sort of Pavlovian scheme to bring all the MR Casanovas (who all know what women out) out of the digital woodwork and chime in.

This is the type of post where every married man in the comments is an expert on women.

To the contrary, I think married man in the comments admit they don't understand what is going on with women's preferences - but readily admit they seem different than male preferences.

Yeah, that's a good point. Lots of these guys sound like they'd fit in well at an mra forum, except for the fact that theyre (at least in this thread) approaching gender discussions w/ humility. And I really can't laugh or get mad at someone who does that

I don't know about all women, but if a married man isn't an expert on one woman, he hasn't paid attention.

"Men never become good husbands. They merely become proficient."

'Yet guys are more likely to spend a lot to buy the most expensive stereo system, or the most expensive car, or make the biggest charitable donation.'

Economist discovers that penis substitutes are rife in the marketplace, seemingly unaware that marketers have been aware of this for generations.

Next up, the same economist writes about penis envy as an underlying female dynamic.

Lol, not entirely unfair. Do I really need a 60 inch television set? No, but isn't it AWESOME?!

Gives a whole new meaning to "market penetration".

In other words, the original newspaper article is bullshit and went to press anyway and got a ton of attention anyway for the usual reasons.

Also, Tyler is a sexist shitlord for referring to women as 'women' throughout his post and to men as 'guys.' Trivial, petty complaint, I know—but people keep telling me to get with the times.

Ignore those people.

Love the just so stories. Keep them coming, maybe we can put together an anthology.

See Pashigian, B. P.. (1988). Demand Uncertainty and Sales: A Study of Fashion and Markdown Pricing. The American Economic Review, 78(5), 936–953. Retrieved from

Basic idea: there are more and better priced clearance sales for items that quickly go out of fashion, fewer clearance sales for non-fashionable items (e.g., white shirts, blue blazers, grey pants.)

Women and man both send signals by what they buy. It's just that the product lists are vey different. Women: food and clothing. Men: vehicles, tools, electronics. Got it?

I am a consumer high-end outdoor apparel - goods where all consumers - male and female are interested in high quality and performance. Because I'm a tall woman with big feet, I shop for men's clothing. In many items, I can wear a men's medium or a women's large. When retailers give male and female items with the same name, the prices tends to be the same for a men's medium and a women's large. Some brands assign gender specific names for items of clothing - making a price comparison difficult. The prices for men's and women's high end socks are almost always identical - e.g. Pearl Izumi attack socks, SmartWool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew. One might conclude that when men and women both want the same high quality item, the price is the same.

But despite the prices being the same, when shopping for socks for family members, I realized that most women are actually getting less than men. High prices for outdoor items is justified because of the quality of craftsmanship and, more importantly, the special expensive materials used. Because most women are generally smaller than men, they are paying the same price for a lot less material. A XL man's jacket requires a lot more Gore-Tex or Down than a S woman's jacket. Now, jackets for women and men often have slightly different cuts in the chest and shoulder area - extra seams around the chest for example - possibly leading to additional production costs for women's apparel - but I can tell no difference between the socks other than size - which presumably means they use the same production. An XL man's sock uses a lot more material than a S woman's sock - and when that material is Merino, the cost of the material can't be insignificant.

I'd be surprised if retailers don't make a bigger profit on women's clothes - when the same men's items are identically priced.

Economically, it seems to me, the only way this could be a real effect (assuming sampling was accurate, which is certainly open to the question) is if women have stronger brand preferance and loyalty than men, overall. Commoditization would otherwise reduce the prices of those goods to the cost of capital.

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