Study finds little consumer concern for ‘pink tax,’ although some disparities exist

Limited consumer concerns based on gender-related pricing differences – termed a “pink tax” – were identified by the federal consumer financial protection agency and two other federal, non-financial regulatory agencies, a new report released Thursday by the congressional watchdog stated.

In its report, “Gender-Related Price Differences for Goods and Services,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) identified limited consumer concerns on gender-related pricing.

Further, GAO said, its own analysis of complaint data received by the three agencies from 2012–17 found that the agencies received limited consumer complaints about gender-related price differences.

The agencies, GAO said, provide general consumer education resources on discrimination and consumer awareness. “However, given the limited consumer concern, they have not identified a need to incorporate additional materials specific to gender-related price differences into their existing consumer education resources,” the oversight body said in its report.

GAO did say that studies it reviewed found limited evidence of gender price differences for four products or services not differentiated by gender – mortgages, small business credit, auto purchases, and auto repairs. With regard to mortgages, the agency said, women as a group paid higher average mortgage rates than men, in part due to weaker credit characteristics, such as lower average income.

“However, after controlling for borrower credit characteristics and other factors, three studies did not find statistically significant differences in borrowing costs between men and women, while one found women paid higher rates for certain subprime loans,” the agency report stated.

On the other hand, the GAO also noted that one study found that female borrowers defaulted less frequently than male borrowers with similar credit characteristics, and the study suggested that women may pay higher mortgage rates than men relative to their default risk.

“While these studies controlled for factors other than gender that could affect borrowing costs, several lacked important data on certain borrower risk characteristics, such as credit scores, which could affect analysis of gender disparities,” GAO said. “Also, several studies analyzed small samples of subprime loans that were originated in 2005 or earlier, which limits the generalizability of the results.”

GAO Report: Gender-Related Price Differences for Goods and Services