eBay sellers who are male tend to earn more than their female counterparts, researchers have recently concluded in a new study that shows the ubiquity of gender bias.
The findings were presented in the open-access journal Science Advances on Friday, February 19, following an extensive analysis carried out by Israeli experts: Dr. Tali Regev, affiliated with the Tiomkin School of Economics at IDC Herzliya, and Dr. Tamar Kricheli-Katz, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at Tel-Aviv University.
A total of 631,516 transactions that occurred on the e-commerce platform between 2009 and 2012 were analyzed, in order to investigate potential gender gaps affecting eBay sellers.
In the auctions, which included the website’s most widely sold 429 products, 77% of the eBay members making the stock available for other users were male, while the rest were female. Most of the sales were represented by old or used items, while 78,350 of the purchases consisted in new merchandise.
It was determined that regardless of factors such as item description, initial asking price or seller credibility (feedback ratings and comments), women tend to receive less money than men do, for virtually identical products, especially if the items that are being commercialized have never been used.
More precisely, when it comes to successful auctions involving brand new products, for every dollar obtained by eBay sellers who are male, their female counterparts only receive around 80 cents, probably because the items made available by women are wrongly judged as inferior or less valuable than those traded by men.
When it comes to items which are defective or which have been pre-owned, used or refurbished, women usually receive approximately 97 cents for each dollar that men normally get.
As study authors speculate, used items may not have such a significant price disparity probably because customers instinctively put more faith in the descriptions that women provide for the second-hand merchandise that they are advertising.
Buyers subconsciously believe that eBay sellers that are female will be more accurate and honest about the degree of wear and tear that the products have had, and about the potential defects or malfunctioning components.
Study authors also discovered that eBay sellers are more likely to benefit from a smaller number of bids if they are female, than if they are male (89 versus 100), even though women usually have superior feedback scores and reputation, despite their more limited selling experience.
It was also discovered that even when selling identical gift cards, corresponding to the same amount of money ($100), eBay users with a female-sounding name (Alison) still earned less than those with a male name (Brad): $83.34 versus $87.42.
Apparently, the gender gap linked to eBay profits persists even for transactions that are performed using the “Buy it now” option.
The only exception that experts identified concerned children’s toys or pet supplies and accessories, these product categories usually permitting females to earn slightly more than males.
The findings of this unprecedented research are surprising especially when considering the fact it’s not compulsory to reveal one’s gender when advertising products on eBay.
However, as study authors point out, more often than not, it’s relatively easy to guess if platform members are male or female, just by looking at their user ID or at the merchandise they have auctioned off before.
For instance, in a trial asking 400 volunteers to determine the gender of eBay sellers when viewing solely their profile pages, accurate answers accounted for 1,127 of the total answers (which amounted to 2,000), while just 170 responses were incorrect, and the rest consisted in “don’t know/no opinion”.
According to Linda Babcock, professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, inequality between sexes that persists even on eBay is nothing short of disheartening.
That’s because it alludes to the fact that in other settings, where the participant’s gender is placed front and center, women are even more severely discriminated against.
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