Would Lesbians Sellers On eBay Make More?

FPG/Getty Images via Fortune

Woman counting money

FPG/Getty Images via Fortune

June 23, 2024 at 10:48AM UTC
Most people seem to understand there is an average wage gap between men and women in the United States. This is based on the commonly cited government data that women make, on average, $0.78 for every $1 a man earns. This statistic does not not adjust for many factors such as education, experience, industry and profession in part because it is quite hard to control for all these factors in real life.
Fewer people are aware that this difference between average male and female earnings (also called the gender wage gap) really depends on a woman's ethnicity. For example, we've written before about how the intersection of gender and ethnicity really impacts what the average pay differentials between women and men are: Hispanic women fare the worst (earning $0.54 on the dollar) while Asian women fare the best (earning $0.90 on the dollar) relative to men.
Last week, the Economist chimed in with new evidence that sexuality matters too when it comes to the gender pay gap. According to a study by the University of Washington, lesbian women made about 9% more than heterosexual women on average, while gay men made about 10% less than heterosexual men. The researchers tried to control for the fact that homosexual women are more educated (on average) than heterosexual women, and also less likely to have children.
In the end, we can only speculate as the reasons why lesbians earn more — but there are some hints in the (admittedly imperfect) data. Lesbian women are likely to work longer hours than heterosexual women and the Economist even theorizes that homosexual women may experience "positive" discrimination in the form of employers assuming they will not dial-back their careers due to child-rearing responsibilities.
So what does all of this have to do with earning money on eBay? Well, around the same time last week, some data was also released analyzing over 1 million sales records from the online auction website. Research published by Science Advances and based on 3 years of eBay's transaction data found that women selling new, identical items as men on eBay made less than them for the same product.
How could this be? As Fortune reported, the gap between male and female earnings on eBay parallels the labor wage gap. Women made 80 cents on the dollar for identical, new items sold on eBay's site, compared to male sellers. Women tended to get fewer bids as well, and this was true even if the woman had higher general seller ratings and reviews.
The gap in what a woman seller earned on eBay decreased to only $0.03 if she was selling used goods. The researchers think this may be due to the higher "trust" factor ascribed to female sellers when an item for sale was older.
While eBay does not collect gender information on the sellers, the researchers found that in the majority of cases, a seller's gender was accurately guessed or inferred by bidders due to their choice of a username. We can't help but wonder: What if an eBay customer could infer sexual orientation as well? Based on pay differentials between straight and homosexual women in labor markets, it stands to reason that perhaps lesbian sellers would have fared better than the average woman seller on eBay, but not quite as well as men.


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