Shopping while female? It might cost you more.
The practice of charging more for products that are specifically marketed to women, sometimes called the "pink tax," has long been criticized by consumer activists. But charging different prices to different sexes is not only legal, but also fairly common, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office.
The GAO looked at two types of deodorant, shaving gel and cream, razors, perfume and body sprays, as well as financial products like mortgages and business loans. For half of those items, the version marketed to women cost more. By contrast, razors and shaving gel cost more when they're targeted to men.
Women also pay more for non-gendered products, such as mortgages, the GAO found. "[W]omen as a group pay higher interest rates on average than men, in part due to weaker credit characteristics," according to the report (Women tend to have more debt than men and on average earn about 20 percent less.)
While federal law bars sex discrimination in housing and credit, "No federal law prohibits businesses from charging consumers different prices for the same or similar goods targeted to different genders," the GAO states.
The agency calculated price differences two ways -- the price per item and the price per volume or count of a product. (Many "women's" products, such as deodorant, are sold in smaller sizes than those marketed to men.) Despite the noted price differences, however, the GAO could not definitively conclude that bias was to blame for the gender-related price differences.
The GAO collected this data at the request of Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D.-New York, and Sen. Bob Casey, D.- Pennsylvania. Maloney, who has previously spoken out against the "pink tax," told Bustle she found the GAO report "worrisome."
"What sticks out to me most is how the gender pay gap seeps over to [things] like mortgages and loans — compounding this issue and putting women at an even greater financial disadvantage," she told the news outlet.
While the GAO specifically looked at personal-care products for adults, sex-based price discrepancies exist across a wide range of consumer goods. New York City's consumer affairs department found that women's products cost about 7 percent more on average, with discrepancies for items such as scooters, bicycle helmets, backpacks, toys, socks, shirts and adult diapers.