Male Sellers on eBay Have an Edge Over Women, Study Finds

Feb 19, 2016

Photo credit: Laura McDermott for The New York Times

By Pam Belluck

Successful sellers on eBay know certain things matter: item description, appealing photos, strong seller ratings and, of course, price.

Now, a study published Friday in the journal Science Advances suggested another factor might make a subtle difference: whether the seller is a man or woman. Using data supplied by the company, researchers analyzed some 630,000 auction transactions on eBay in the United States and reported that, on average, when men and women with equal selling reputations sold the same products, women received lower prices than men.

The difference was far less pronounced for used items: Women sellers received about 97 cents for every dollar men received. But with new items, where the authors say direct comparison is easier, women received about 80 cents on average for every dollar men sellers received.

“The basic point — that people have different expectations of women versus men and so we treat them very differently in the world — it’s fascinating and depressing,” said Linda Babcock, an economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University, who was not involved in the study.


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8 comments on “Male Sellers on eBay Have an Edge Over Women, Study Finds

  • Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economist and expert on gender wage gaps, said the study was intriguing but needed more analysis. “Just perceiving that somebody’s a woman, what exactly does it mean?” she asked. “It’s got to mean something about the quality of the good or service or something that’s not captured in the data that they have.”

    It might mean that men know they can deal harder with a woman and get a better price than they would get from another man. The up front valuation ( more value for goods offered for men than women ) may just be predicated on this knowledge.
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  • Ive not read the study. But how does anyone know what gender the seller is when buying an item on ebay? As far as I can remember, gender is not shown on seller listings. Unless an ebay user name specifically indicates a male or female sounding name, the buyer doesnt know. Even then, anyone could be sitting behind the computer using that username (male or female).

    If a buyer doesnt know the gender of the seller, then this study seems meaningless.
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  • There could be any number of factors at play that have little or nothing to do with the buyer’s perception of whether the seller is male or female. Maybe men are more likely to be bullish about holding out for a higher price. Maybe men are more likely to lie about the value of the goods on offer. Or maybe more men have been selling for longer so are slightly more canny sellers overall (for now). What the article doesn’t say is whether men or women have more successful sales – if women are selling cheaper I’d expect them to have the edge in that statistic.
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  • So you’re essentially telling us that on Ebay, where there is a system of pseudonyms in place and thus you wouldn’t be aware of the seller’s sex or gender, somehow people still manage to hold a negative bias towards women? That’s one hell of a Spidey sense.

    Has RDFRS been hacked?
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  • Hmmm… i have bought quite a number of items on ebay and have never once bothered about the gender of the seller. in fact, does ebay even list that? if it does, then i am not aware and too lazy to find out even if i knew.
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