No tit for tat, or should that be tat for tit ... Women selling stuff on eBay get lower bids

Study finds men get higher prices in cyber-auctions

It's no secret that women tend to be paid less than men across many professions, and now researchers say the pay gap even extends to goods sold online.

A pair of academics in Israel studying eBay auction results over a three-year period found that when selling the same items, both new and used, female sellers got a lower average price than their male counterparts.

"Women sellers received a smaller number of bids and lower final prices than did equally qualified men sellers of the exact same product," say researchers Tamar Kricheli-Katz of Tel Aviv University and Tali Regev of the School of Economics, Herzliya.

"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."

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, found that new products carried a more pronounced sales gap, with women sellers getting about 80 cents for every dollar men got at sale. For used products, the difference was less pronounced, with women getting 97 cents on the dollar.

The researchers noted that even when accounting for variations such as differences in the language used on the sales page, the conclusion they reach is that buyers are able to determine the gender of a seller and, when doing so, tend to offer women sellers lower purchase prices.

To demonstrate the claim, the two researchers conducted a pair of experiments, the first demonstrating that users can positively identify the gender of a seller based on factors including the types of goods sold and user names, about 56 per cent of the time, while being unable to make a determination 35 per cent of the time and wrong just 9 per cent.

A second experiment by the researchers employed Amazon's Mechanical Turk program to ask a group of survey takers what they would bid for identical $100 gift card auctions carried out by a man (named Brad) and a woman (named Alison). That study found that "Brad" was averaged bids of $87.42, while "Alison" fetched just $83.34.

One possible factor the researchers noted in the study was the finding that women tend to be more risk-averse than men when conducting auctions. Women were more likely to set a higher starting price on the online tat bazaar, pay to set a reserve price minimum, and opt for a "buy it now" option over a "best offer."

Overall, however, the findings show that eBay operates much like the rest of the marketplace when it comes to paying men and women. "The results of our study are particularly noteworthy when we consider the market that we studied. As a policy, eBay does not explicitly state the gender of its users. Nevertheless, men and women are easily gender-categorized by other users," the researchers wrote.

"We suspect that even greater divergences are present in other product markets where gender is always known." ®

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