The Pink Tax: Female Consumers' Unfair Burden

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Half of the population is subject to the Pink Tax.

The Pink Tax, also known as gender pricing, refers to the extra amount of money women pay for specific products or services. While the "tax" has been normalized, it is, to put it simply, gender discrimination.

For decades, female consumers have had to pay more for identical or extremely similar “men’s” products. While manufacturers and retailers have claimed that the price difference is due to higher costs for producing women’s products, research has found that not to be true. In fact, in some cases, the only difference between "women's" and "men's" products is the color.

Keep scrolling to learn more about the Pink Tax and its cost to the female consumer.

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What Is The Pink Tax?

From soap to razors and deodorant, the price disparity you may have noticed between men’s and women’s products in stores is no mistake. 

The Pink Tax has long referred to how consumer products advertised for women tend to be more expensive than comparable items marketed to men.

This gender-based price disparity is found in many different sectors of consumers but is most visible in personal care products, including soaps, razors, deodorant, lotion, and more. 

The Cost of the Pink Tax

One government study analyzed 800 gender-specific products from nearly 100 brands and found that personal care products marketed to women are 13 percent more expensive than similar men’s products.

According to the study, "women are paying thousands of dollars more over the course of their lives to purchase similar products as men."

The Pink Tax serves as another economic burden for women as the gender wage gap continues to prevail.

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The Scope of the Pink Tax

The Pink Tax impacts the pricing of essential items and merchandise, including personal care products, clothes, toys, bicycles, and senior/home products.  Because these products are marketed toward women and girls, they tend to be more expensive regardless of whether the items are the same or of similar quality. For example, Bankrate found that the average cost of a women’s pair of jeans cost $62.79, while men’s jeans cost $57.09 at a popular retailer. That means customers will pay roughly 10% more for women’s jeans than men’s.

A bombshell 2015 report from the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs highlighted the price disparities for nearly 800 comparable products and dozens of brands sold in stores across the city. The most shocking upcharges were among personal care products.

Here are some price differences the report showcased: 

  • A five-pack of blue razors costs $14.99, while a purple-colored one cost $18.49.
  • A brand’s shampoo and conditioner for women cost $1.99. The same one for men costs $1.29.
  • Women, on average, paid 13% more for products marketed toward them than men do at the time, according to officials. 

Another revelation that caught media attention was how much more parents paid for girls’ toys and merchandise. Toys marketed toward girls cost 7% more than ones advertised for boys, the report states. Here are examples of the discrepancies: 

  • A red scooter cost $24.99. An identical pink scooter was priced at $49.99. 
  • A boy’s helmet cost $14.99, while a girl’s helmet cost $27.99.

The egregious price hikes don’t stop there, however. 

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The Pink Tax Goes Beyond Products

Pink Tax doesn’t just affect everyday products and retail items. This discriminatory pricing can extend to even services, from cleaning and cars to hairdressing.

New York’s report on the Pink Tax also highlighted studies from the 1990s that showed how services can overcharge women: 

“The 1992 study found that when women bought used cars, they were twice as likely to have been quoted a higher price than men. Based on a survey of 80 hair salons across the five boroughs, the study found that, on average, women paid 25 percent more for the same haircuts. Similarly, on average, women paid 27 percent more for the identical service of laundering a basic white cotton shirt.” 

A more recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research saw the trend continue with car maintenance services. In 2013, the organization had male and female participants call several car mechanics for auto repair quotes. 

Participants got similar quotes regardless of gender, but female callers who weren’t informed about pricing were quoted $23 on average more than male callers. 

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The Pink Tax vs. The Tampon Tax

While the Pink Tax refers to how consumer products advertised for women tend to be more expensive than comparable items marketed to men, the Tampon Tax is an actual sales tax that many states impose on feminine hygiene products. What makes the Tampon Tax different from the Pink Tax is that women can sometimes avoid paying the Pink Tax by choosing the male version of a product. However, that isn't an option for menstrual products.

So how do retailers get away with an actual tax on feminine hygiene products? Well, tampons and pads are subject to sales tax because they are categorized as “luxury” items. While retailers have imposed this tax using that loophole for decades, some are now leading the charge for change.

Most recently, CVS committed to dropping its prices by 25 percent on CVS Health and Live Better tampons, menstrual pads, liners, and cups. In October, CVS began covering the cost of sales taxes on period products in a dozen states, including Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. The company said it couldn't cover the tax in other states due to laws that prohibit third parties from paying taxes on the consumer's behalf.

The price slash is a part of a bigger effort to close the gap between the cost of women's and men's personal health items and eliminate the sales tax on feminine hygiene products, a phenomenon widely known as the "Pink Tax."

“Too often, period products are taxed as luxury items and not recognized as basic necessities,” said the Alliance for Period Supplies, an advocacy organization working on expanding access to menstrual supplies. “Period products are taxed at a similar rate to items like decor, electronics, makeup and toys.”

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What Is Being Done?

For the last few years, the Pink Tax has garnered national attention, prompting members of congress to formally establish and introduce the Pink Tax Repeal Act in 2021. The push to create legislation that addresses the Pink Tax began in 2015 with Congresswoman Jackie Speier. With the uptick in costs of services, goods, and products with pink or feminine-gendered properties, the Act was created to prohibit extreme taxation and price gauging on items or products that alienate a specific sex group. This bill has been introduced to the House Committee of Energy and Commerce and is still awaiting passage. 

Bill H.R. 3853, written via, rules that substantially similar products and services are not subject to gender price discrimination as currently fueled by the Pink Tax. Other notations include the dissolution in price gorging due to a product’s difference in color despite similar structure and feature. It’s worth noting that the Pink tax is not only recognized by smaller household items and cosmetics but also by items such as child restraint systems. 

A Pink Tax study conducted by suggests that the gender price difference exists even within children’s clothing, with girls’ items costing nearly 4% more than boys’ items and an 8% difference among men’s and women’s clothing. Companies within this focus include major retailers such as Target, children’s wear Carter, American Apparel, Gap, H&M, and CVS. 

Despite locally and nationally dedicated research and studies revealing Pink-painted trends showcasing overpayment and over-taxation of products, the U.S remains behind in the movement to repeal the Pink Tax. In 2021, the UK joined the list of other international countries in banning what they know as the Tampon Tax nationally. Specifically, the UK now bans the 5 % VAT tax, also known as the value-added tax on menstrual products. Scotland Residents with lower income status are now provided free sanitary napkins and other feminine care products. Other countries offering tax-free feminine care products include Canada, Kenya, Australia, and India, in addition to 17 of 50 US States. 

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What You Can Do?

Black women and women from underserved communities are significantly impacted by the Pink Tax. In addition to it causing a financial strain, the effect of paying this pretty painted toll leads to the misuse of gender-based products and gender price discrimination.

Sixty percent of Black women overrepresented in hospitality, food services, and lower wage-earning jobs may feel an even more significant impact by purchasing pink-ticketed items. Underpaid and fiscally undervalued persons need to understand ways in which they can avoid or limit the use of products levied by the Pink Tax and finally gain more understanding about the movement to repeal the Pink Tax.

To continue fighting against the pink tax here in the US, many people can start with a simple comparison of products to find the best quality cost within their local stores. Additionally, participating in campaigns helps to alleviate some of the financial duress associated with the popular Tampon Tax can be beneficial. The sustainably and ethically founded wellness brand Honey Pot & Company creates awareness by purchasing either of their #HappyPeriod enamel pins. Patrons can take pride in that The Honey Pot & Co donates feminine care products to those in need with each purchase. 

Greater individual involvement can manifest in various ways, such as petition creation, acknowledgment, and education for all, not just female-gendered persons. Checking out local campaigns and purchasing gender-neutral items while supporting companies and organizations that are committed to the cause. 

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