There’s a Downside to Being a Woman Who Sells Things on eBay

Women don’t just pay more than men for the same products — they also earn less than men for selling the same products on eBay.

A new study published in the journal Science Advances finds that female sellers on the e-commerce site “receive a smaller number of bids, and lower final prices, than do equally qualified men.”

The study’s researchers, Tamar Kricheli-Katz, a sociologist at Tel Aviv University, and Tali Regev, an economist at IDC Herzliya, analyzed 1,106,741 transactions involving private U.S. sellers on the site between 2009 and 2012. The transactions were all auctions, so there were no negotiations involved, and were made up of the 420 most popular products from the site’s broader categories.

For every dollar a man earned for selling a new product on eBay, women, who made up 23 percent of the sellers in the data set, earned 19.7 percent less — only 80 cents — selling the exact same new product and .88 percent less bids. The ratio was more balanced when it came to selling used items on the site, with women earning 97 cents for every male dollar.

The gap was found to exist even though female sellers had, on average, better feedback scores from buyers.

“What drives the gender pay gap that we observe are beliefs about gender, and the effects that they have on consumers’ willingness to pay for desired products,” write researchers Tamar Kricheli-Katz, a sociologist at Tel Aviv University, and Tali Regev, an economist at IDC Herzliya.

To support their study, the researchers also tested 400 people on whether they could identify gender from looking at user profiles. Of the 2,000 evaluations, the participants were correct in their gender identifications in 1,127 cases. They misidentified gender in only 170 cases.

In one other experiment, the researchers asked 116 participants to assess the value of a $100 gift card sold by a person named either Alison or Brad. On average, the gift card sold by Alison was valued at $83.44, whereas the same card sold by Brad was valued at $87.42.

EBay said in a statement that it was not involved in the research and that almost half of its top sellers in the U.S. are female.

“We are passionate about harnessing our platform to empower millions of people by leveling the playing field for them,” the company said. “We do not reveal the gender of our sellers, although they can choose to do that themselves. When our sellers succeed, eBay succeeds.”

The study’s researcher believe their findings are indicators of inequalities in other places as well.

“The results of our study are particularly noteworthy when we consider the market that we studied,” the researchers write. “As a policy, eBay does not explicitly state the gender of its users. Nevertheless, men and women are easily gender-categorized by other users. We suspect that even greater divergences are present in other product markets where gender is always known.”

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