Same Products For Higher Prices? Welcome to the “Pink Tax”

It’s not an understatement to say that COVID-19 crisis has dramatically altered the lives of millions of Californians, both economically and health wise. Now more than ever, we are relying on fairly priced essential goods and services to maintain a semblance of normal life as we practice social distancing and keep ourselves and our families safe. However, this crisis has forced us to confront the uncomfortable truth that half of California’s population is paying an average of 13% more for the same goods, while earning much less. 

Equal Pay Day on March 31 this year may be overshadowed by efforts to prevent the spread of the virus but it is still critical to bring attention to systemic gender inequities that hurt women and families, especially in times of crises. Every year, March 31 marks how much longer a white woman must work into the year in order to earn the same pay as the average man. For women of color, equal pay day comes far later: August 13 for Black women and November 20 for Latina women. And not only do women earn less than our male counterparts overall – collectively losing out on $87 billion dollars annually – but are also hit with an additional economic burden known as thePink Tax”.

The “Pink Tax” is a common marketing device that prices women’s products higher than the same items marketed to men. From deodorant to toys, clothes and medications, women are likely to be charged more for buying virtually the same goods as men. Marketers are savvy. They know that women make 70 to 80 percent of all consumer purchases, and that they can increase profits if they charge more for gendered products. They’ll add a pastel color or change a tag line, target their marketing toward women, and increase the price to match. 

This type of gender-based price discrimination is unacceptable, and during times like these, downright harmful. A mother in Los Angeles has to work longer than her male counterpart to earn enough to purchase a tablet for her child so that she can participate in online schooling, and then has to pay 13% more to buy her daughter the pink one she wanted. This kind of manipulation and discrimination exacerbates the deep economic inequalities that exist across race and gender lines. 

That’s why we put forward The Pink Tax Repeal Act (Senate Bill 873), authored by Senator Hannah Beth Jackson which bans gender-based price discrimination on commercial products. California already prevents services like dry-cleaners from charging more based on gender – and this bill extends that protection to all consumer products. The Pink Tax Repeal Act would rectify an injustice in our marketplace that has dramatic implications for the day-to-day lives and financial futures of women across California. 

Unfortunately, the pink tax is more common than many people realize. A study by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs showed that products marketed to women cost more than products marketed to men about 42% of the time. Those extra dollars mean that women are shelling out up to an extra $188,000 each to corporations over a lifetime. That’s called economic disenfranchisement, and it needs to be changed.

Luckily, the women who have gotten stuck paying the Pink Tax are the same as those leading the charge to end it. A strong coalition of sponsors including the Consumer Federation of California; National Association of Women Business Owners, California Chapter; and the Women’s Foundation of California are stepping up to make sure that this discriminatory economic burden comes to an end.  

The ‘Pink Tax’ is unfair, unethical, and harms women and families everywhere. Outlawing this unfair practice has the potential to improve the financial health and wellbeing of women and girls across our state – both now and for future generations.

A note about language: We want to acknowledge the ways in which calling this a “pink tax” reinforces limiting gender stereotypes. At present, the “pink tax” framing is an established part of the public conversation around gender-based economic discrimination.  We want to be part of that conversation while also acknowledging the limitations of this language and the need for better, more expansive descriptors.

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