Coase-Sandor Working Paper Series in Law and Economics
Gender Discrimination in Online Markets
We study whether a seller’s gender impacts the bargained-for price in a product market, specifically baseball cards, as well whether any discrimination that might be present is taste-based or statistically-based. We accomplish this by isolating the seller’s gender using an online transaction on eBay where the buyer is exposed to the seller’s gender by only the seller’s hand and name. We test for differential treatment in two environments: a field experiment, in which we actually sell cards on eBay, and a laboratory experiment, in which we conduct surveys via Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk). We find that there is consistent differential treatment of female sellers across both environments. However, this treatment runs in the opposite direction of the discrimination found in most studies of gender. We find that women sell baseball cards for a higher price and greater profit on eBay compared to men. This finding was replicated in the MTurk study. The MTurk study suggested that the reason for a higher price appears to be at least partially based on statistical discrimination, with respondents believing that female sellers were more likely to handle the card carefully and promptly mail it after purchase and less likely to present problems in completing the transaction. Part of the discrimination may also be taste–based. In the eBay experiment, women obtained higher prices and profits even for cards that had been professionally graded, where the quality of the card should not have been in doubt. And MTurk respondents were also more likely to want to meet the female sellers in person and believed they were attractive.