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The Development of the Pink Tax Over Time in America

22 January, 2024 | Aashritha Penumudi


It’s 1994. The neighbor’s mother needs to get her blouse washed after spilling fruit punch on it at yesterday’s barbecue. As a matter of fact, so does the father. But as they walk over to the trusted Belle’s Dry Clean, she notices how thin her wallet is. She’s been spending a lot more on dry cleaning than her husband, even if they’ve gone the same number of times. 


Looking closer at ledgers throughout the country, this pattern could be observed with not just dry cleaning, but also lotions, razors, and haircuts. 


This late 20th century observation was first officially made by California's Assembly Office of Research, reporting that 64% of stores in California’s major cities charged a woman more than a man to dry clean their garments.



DiFrancesco, Vivienne. “A Pink Tax Exploratory Data Analysis | by Vivienne DiFrancesco.” Towards Data Science, 23 March 2021, https://towardsdatascience.com/a-pink-tax-exploratory-data-analysis-94642f83d4c5. Accessed 26 December 2023.


A year later, in 1995, legislation began to pass across the state to mitigate or terminate gender-based product price differences. California passed the Gender Tax Repeal Act of 1995, introduced by Speier as Assembly Bill No. 1088, which made it illegal for a business to increase the price of a good or service based on the customer’s gender.


In 1997, Miami-Dade passed the Price Gender Discrimination law, fining up to $200, accounting for current inflation, if someone violates the law of disproportionately charging a certain gender more than the other. While discounts are applicable, they must also allow both genders to benefit.


Still, in 2015, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) researchers found that 35 product categories averaged higher prices for women. In 2018, Speier introduced a revised version of the Pink Tax Repeal Act which had passed in California in 2001. Speier introduced the revision as H.R. 2048 in 2019, and again in 2021. It would eventually pass and continue to punish businesses for unfairly charging genders for products they need, primarily women.


Yet, even after many legislations and policy proposals, there is no federal ban on the pink tax. Such a movement has not gained enough votes to pass through the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.



Barry, Katie. “It's Time to Pass By the Pink Tax.” ShoutOut! James Madison University, 24 November 2020, https://shoutoutjmu.com/2020/11/24/its-time-to-pass-by-the-pink-tax/. Accessed 26 December 2023.


In 2020, New York and Ohio joined California and eliminated the pink tax on certain goods and services, potentially saving women $188,000 in “taxes” throughout their life. Although most states don’t charge taxes for products like sanitary pads and tampons, women are also able to save more through sales tax refunds on some feminine hygiene products starting in October of 2023 through the “Tampon Tax Back” campaign.


The Tampon Tax Back campaign, which began in 2020 as a hashtag made popular by women-owned hygiene brands sold at Target, rose to help alleviate the gender-based inflation. If one’s hygiene product purchase meets a certain criteria, such as purchased in-person, from a certain selection of brands (notably August, Rael, and Lola), in one of 21 participating states, they can apply for a refund via tampontaxback.com by entering their information. 


Although over 20 states have taken action against the pink tax, costs incurred from other gender-specific services can still hugely impact women’s financial confidence. While it makes sense to keep sales taxes on non-hygiene products to maintain the economy, the inflation on the product price itself is an issue with much potential improvement.





Works Cited


“Price Gender Discrimination Laws.” Miami-Dade County, https://www.miamidade.gov/global/economy/consumer-protection/price-gender-discrimination.page. Accessed 26 December 2023.


Taylor, Kelley R. “Pink Tax: What Does Price Discrimination Cost Women?” Kiplinger, https://www.kiplinger.com/taxes/pink-tax-womens-products-price-discrimination. Accessed 26 December 2023.


Rubloff, Tori, and staff writers. “The Pink Tax: Latest Updates and Statistics.” Bankrate, 27 February 2023, https://www.bankrate.com/personal-finance/pink-tax-how-women-pay-more/. Accessed 26 December 2023.


“There’s A Pink Tax On Women” Forbes, 30 October 2023, https://www.forbes.com/sites/lawrencelight/2022/02/12/theres-a-pink-tax-on-women/?sh=12579be37318. Accessed 26 December 2023.


James, Peggy. “What Is the Pink Tax?” The Balance, 11 January 2023, https://www.thebalancemoney.com/what-is-the-pink-tax-5202741. Accessed 26 December 2023.


Barry, Katie. “It's Time to Pass By the Pink Tax.” ShoutOut! James Madison University, 24 November 2020, https://shoutoutjmu.com/2020/11/24/its-time-to-pass-by-the-pink-tax/. Accessed 26 December 2023.


DiFrancesco, Vivienne. “A Pink Tax Exploratory Data Analysis | by Vivienne DiFrancesco.” Towards Data Science, 23 March 2021, https://towardsdatascience.com/a-pink-tax-exploratory-data-analysis-94642f83d4c5. Accessed 26 December 2023.

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