At this year's Oscars, Patricia Arquette demanded wage equality for women “once and for all” — and she has a point: Full-time working women earn only about 77 percent of what their male counterparts earn, according to the White House, which adds that “no matter how you evaluate the data, there remains a pay gap — even after factoring in the kind of work people do, or qualifications such as education and experience.”
The pay gap in and of itself makes it tougher for many women to pay bills and save money — and the issue is further exacerbated by the so-called “woman tax,” which over a lifetime, means that women may spend tens of thousands of dollars more on certain goods and services than men do.
In fact, a number of studies show that many items are routinely more expensive for women than for men. A study from the state of California on this so-called woman tax found that women, on average, pay about $1,351 annually in extra costs for similar goods and services. While the study is from the ’90s, many experts say that such pricing discrepancies still exist — and will continue to: “I don’t see this going away anytime soon, because the dialogue in our culture is that men and women are different — we call each other the ‘opposite sex,’” Nicholas Guittar, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina Lancaster, who has studied gendered pricing, told MarketWatch last year; thus, he says, pricing differences don’t bother Americans enough for people to rebel against them. “Gendered pricing disparities will persist despite the presence of increased gender equality in society.”
However, there are some retail situations in which women get better prices. “Ladies night” at a bar — when ladies get in free but men must pay admission — is one of them. Car insurance is another: Men pay an estimated $15,000 more over their lifetime for car insurance than women do, according to insurance comparison site CoverHound.com. And just because men may tend to pay less for an item doesn’t mean gender discrimination is always at work, says Catherine Liston-Heyes, an economist at the University of Ottawa who has studied differential pricing. Sometimes an item or service costs, on average, more to provide for women than men, so that is reflected in the pricing, she explains.
Whatever the reason for differential pricing, one thing’s certain: “The cumulative cost of these differences is significant,” says Guittar.
Here are five things women generally pay more for.
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics found that women, on average, pay more for mortgages than men, with the mean mortgage interest rates for women coming in 0.4 percent higher than for men. “The disparity cannot be fully explained by traditional variables such as mortgage features, borrower characteristics, and market conditions,” the authors write. In other words, women with credit scores and other qualifying factors similar to men pay more for their mortgages.
However, the authors don’t think gender discrimination is to blame here: “While the persistence of gender disparity may suggest discrimination, we offer a different explanation: Women pay higher rates because they are more likely to choose lenders by recommendation, while men tend to search for the lowest rate,” the authors write. That discrepancy could mean thousands of dollars in extra payments for women down the road. For a 30-year mortgage, that could mean a man pays $26,000 less in interest over the life of the loan than a woman (assuming he gets a 5 percent mortgage rate while she gets a 5.4 percent rate).
The takeaway: While women may not always be able to get a better price on a mortgage than men, experts say it’s worth a shot. Compare interest rates for your mortgage online, using a site like LendingTree.com, to try to get the best rate.
Not all items are more expensive for women to get dry-cleaned — suits, blazers and slacks tend to have similar prices — but shirts are, according to the study published in the journal Gender Issues in 2011. The average price to clean a men’s shirt was $2.06, while it was $3.95 for a woman’s shirt — and that’s before considering the added cost of shirts made from special fabric like silk or rayon, or with embellishments like sequins or pleats. “The observed pricing disparity is for identical shirts except that one is labeled a ‘men’s’ shirt while the other is a ‘women’s’ shirt,” the authors write. This means that if a man and woman got one shirt dry cleaned per month for 10 years, on average, it would cost a man $247.20 in today’s dollars, while a woman would end up paying $474; over the course of 30 years, that would balloon to $741 for men and $1,422 for women.
The takeaway: Some dry cleaners are willing to go down in price for regular customers, so it’s worth negotiating with them if you experience unfair pricing.
As almost every woman knows, getting a haircut costs far more for women than for men. A study by economist Liston-Heyes found that even for the same haircut, women paid more than men. “We started calling different hairdressers and explicitly said we had the same haircut [as a man],” she says. Still, she says, in almost every case, the price for the woman’s cut was more than a price for a man’s cut. A 1996 study done in New York City had similar findings: Nearly half of hair salons charged women more for a simple haircut. (New York City now prohibits gender-based pricing, though the practice persists.) Liston-Heyes says that this may be because, on average, it takes more time and effort for salons to cut women’s hair than men’s hair, so when they create their pricing structure, they make women’s cuts more expensive.
The takeaway: Look for salons with fairer pricing: Some salons now charge by the minute — for example, they charge $20 for a 20-minute haircut, says Liston-Heyes. You can also try to negotiate the price with your stylist; just be sure to agree on the price ahead of time.
Stopping odor is a pricier proposition for women than for men, according to a 2011 study published in the journal Gender Issues. While on the surface, prices for a stick of deodorant for men and women seem the same (roughly $3.15 per stick), men’s deodorant sticks tend to be larger than women’s (2.86 ounces vs. 2.29 ounces). This means that, on average, women pay $1.44 per ounce of deodorant, compared with $1.15 for men — a difference of about 20 percent. Guittar points out that companies defend this practice by saying that it often costs more to market to women than to men.
The takeaway: Buy unscented men’s deodorant if you notice a price discrepancy. “Women’s and men’s deodorant are the same,” says New York City-based dermatologist Dennis Gross. “If you check the label there are the same active ingredients at the same percentage based on FDA regulations.”
A 2001 study published in The American Economic Review found that car dealers made better initial offers to white men than to white women (more than $200 lower) and black women (more than $400 lower). What’s more, the final markup was about 50 percent higher for white women than for white men, and more than 100 percent higher for black women. “Without any negotiating at all, two out of five white males obtained a better offer than their counterparts achieved after bargaining on average for more than forty minutes,” the authors write. While this study is older, many experts say that they expect these rules may still hold true.
The takeaway: Don’t be afraid to walk away from a negotiation. While women may have a tougher time getting as good of a deal on a car as men do, it’s a good idea to come armed with pricing data (KBB.com and Edmunds.com are good resources) so you know what a fair price is for the car. If the dealer won’t give it to you, go elsewhere.
This article originally appeared on MarketWatch.com and is reprinted by permission from Marketwatch.com, ©2015 Dow Jones & Co. Inc. All rights reserved.