Research ArticleGENDER STUDIES

How many cents on the dollar? Women and men in product markets

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Science Advances  19 Feb 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 2, e1500599
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500599

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Gender inequality in contemporary U.S. society is a well-documented, widespread phenomenon. However, little is known about gender disparities in product markets. This study is the first to use actual market data to study the behavior of women and men as sellers and buyers and differences in market outcomes. We analyze a unique and large data set containing all eBay auction transactions of most popular products by private sellers between the years 2009 and 2012. Women sellers received a smaller number of bids and lower final prices than did equally qualified men sellers of the exact same product. On average, women sellers received about 80 cents for every dollar a man received when selling the identical new product and 97 cents when selling the same used product. These findings held even after controlling for the sentiments that appear in the text of the sellers’ listings. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that this gap varied by the type of the product being sold. As a policy, eBay does not reveal the gender of users. We attribute the price differences to the ability of buyers to discern the gender of the seller. We present results from an experiment that shows that people accurately identify the gender of sellers on the basis of typical information provided in postings. We supplement the analysis with an additional off-eBay experiment showing that, in a controlled setting, people are willing to pay less for money-value gift cards when they are sold by women rather than men.

  • Discrimination
  • product markets
  • ebay
  • big data
  • sex discrimination

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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