Hostname: page-component-594f858ff7-x2rdm Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-06-06T21:01:57.342Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": false, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "corePageComponentUseShareaholicInsteadOfAddThis": true, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Women’s Descriptive Representation and Gendered Import Tax Discrimination

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 October 2020

Technical University of Munich
University of California, San Diego
Rice University
Timm Betz, Assistant Professor, School of Governance, Bavarian School of Public Policy, Technical University of Munich,
David Fortunato, Associate Professor, School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California, San Diego, Copenhagen Business School,
Diana Z. O’Brien, Albert Thomas Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Rice University,


We identify a form of gender-based governmental discrimination that directly affects billions of women on a daily basis: the setting of import tariffs for gendered goods. These tax rates, which can differ across otherwise identical gender-specific products, often impose direct penalties on women as consumers. Comparing nearly 200,000 paired tariff rates on men’s and women’s apparel products in 167 countries between 1995 and 2015, we find that women suffer a tax penalty that varies systematically across countries. We demonstrate that in democracies, women’s presence in the legislature is associated with decreased import tax penalties on women’s goods. This finding is buttressed by a comparison of democracies and non-democracies and analyses of the implementation of legislative gender quotas. Our work highlights a previously unacknowledged government policy that penalizes women and also provides powerful evidence that descriptive representation can have a substantial, direct impact on discriminatory policies.

© The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Political Science Association

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


An earlier draft of this work was presented at the 2019 European Political Science Association Conference. We would like to thank our discussant, Martin Hansen, as well as our fellow panelists and audience members for their useful feedback. We would also like to acknowledge Kaitlin Senk, Keigo Tanabe, and Anne Fortunato for their research assistance. Finally, we are grateful to the three anonymous reviewers at the American Political Science Review, whose thoughtful feedback improved this work immensely, as well as to editors Ben Lauderdale and Denise Walsh for shepherding the manuscript through the review process. Replication materials can be found at:


Baker, Andy. 2005. “Who Wants to Globalize? Consumer Tastes and Labor Markets in a Theory of Trade Policy Beliefs.” American Journal of Political Science 49 (4): 924938.10.1111/j.1540-5907.2005.00164.xCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bastiaens, Ida, and Rudra, Nita. 2018. Democracies in Peril: Taxation and Redistribution in Globalizing Economies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/9781108556668CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bessendorf, Anna. 2018. From Cradle to Cane: The Cost of Being a Female Consumer. A Study of Gender Pricing in New York City. New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. Scholar
Betz, Timm. 2017. “Trading Interests: Domestic Institutions, International Negotiations, and the Politics of Trade.” Journal of Politics 79 (4): 12371252.10.1086/692476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Betz, Timm, and Pond, Amy. 2019. “The Absence of Consumer Interests in Trade Policy.” Journal of Politics 81 (2): 585600.10.1086/701493CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Blau, Francine D., and Kahn, Lawrence M.. 2003. “Understanding International Differences in the Gender Pay Gap.” Journal of Labor Economics 21 (1): 106144.10.1086/344125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Boix, Carles, Miller, Michael, and Rosato, Sebastian. 2013. “A Complete Data Set of Political Regimes, 1800-2007.” Comparative Political Studies 46 (12): 15231554.10.1177/0010414012463905CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brule, Rachel. Forthcoming. “Reform, Representation, and Resistance: The Politics of Property Rights’ Enforcement.” Journal of Politics. Scholar
de Diputados, Cámara. 2018. “2214-D-2018.” Trámites Parlamentarios 6 (32): 21742241. Scholar
Chattopadhyay, Raghabendra, and Duflo, Esther. 2004. “Women as Policy Makers: Evidence from a Randomized Policy Experiment in India.” Econometrica 72 (1): 14091443.10.1111/j.1468-0262.2004.00539.xCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cheibub, José Antonio, Gandhi, Jennifer, and Vreeland, James Raymond. 2010. “Democracy and Dictatorship Revisited.” Public Choice 143 (2): 67101.10.1007/s11127-009-9491-2CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Childs, Sarah, and Withey, Julie. 2006. “The Substantive Representation of Women: The Case of the Reduction of VAT on Sanitary Products.” Parliamentary Affairs 59 (1): 1023.10.1093/pa/gsj003CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Clayton, Amanda, Josefsson, Cecilia, and Wang, Vibeke. 2017. “Quotas and Women’s Substantive Representation: Evidence from a Content Analysis of Ugandan Plenary Debates.” Politics & Gender 13 (2): 276304.10.1017/S1743923X16000453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Clayton, Amanda, and Zetterberg, Pär. 2018. “Quota Shocks: Electoral Gender Quotas and Government Spending Priorities Worldwide.” Journal of Politics 80 (3): 916932.10.1086/697251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cruz, Cesi, Keefer, Philip, and Scartascini, Carlos. 2015. The Database of Political Institutions. Washington, DC: Inter-American Development Bank.Google Scholar
Dahlerup, Drude. 2006. Women, Quotas, and Politics. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Dietrich, Bryce J., Hayes, Matthew, and O’Brien, Diana Z.. 2019. “Pitch Perfect: Vocal Pitch and the Emotional Intensity of Congressional Speech.” American Political Science Review 113 (4): 941962.10.1017/S0003055419000467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Franceschet, Susan, and Piscopo, Jennifer M.. 2008. “Gender Quotas and Women’s Substantive Representation: Lessons from Argentina.” Politics & Gender 4 (3): 393425.Google Scholar
Gerrity, Jessica C., Osborn, Tracy, and Mendez, Jeanette Morehouse. 2007. “Women and Representation: A Different View of the District?Politics & Gender 3 (2): 179200.Google Scholar
Ghodsi, Mahdi, Gruebler, Julia, and Stehrer, Robert. 2016. Import Demand Elasticities Revisited. Vienna: wiiw Working Paper No. 132.Google Scholar
Guisinger, Alexandra. 2017. American Opinion on Trade: Preferences Without Politics. New York: Oxford University Press.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190651824.001.0001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hausmann, Ricardo, Hidalgo, Cesar A., Bustos, Sebastian, Coscia, Michele, Simoes, Alexander, and Yildirim, Muhammed. 2014. The Atlas of Economic Complexity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.10.7551/mitpress/9647.001.0001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hughes, Melanie M., Paxton, Pamela, Clayton, Amanda, and Zetterberg, Pär. 2019. “Quota Adoption and Reform Over Time (QAROT), 1947–2015.” Scholar
Inglehart, Ronald, and Norris, Pippa. 2003. Rising Tide: Gender Equality and Cultural Change Around the World. New York: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511550362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Iversen, Torben, and Rosenbluth, Frances. 2006. “The Political Economy of Gender: Explaining Cross-National Variation in the Gender Division of Labor and the Gender Voting Gap.” American Journal of Political Science 50 (1): 119.10.1111/j.1540-5907.2006.00166.xCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jacobsen, Kenneth A. 2018. “Rolling Back the ‘Pink Tax’: Dim Prospects for Eliminating Gender-Based Price Discrimination in the Sale of Consumer Goods and Services.” California Western Law Review 54 (2): 2.Google Scholar
Kim, In Song. 2017. “Political Cleavages within Industry: Firm-Level Lobbying for Trade Liberalization.” American Political Science Review 111 (1): 120.10.1017/S0003055416000654CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kittilson, Miki Caul. 2008. “Representing Women: The Adoption of Family Leave in Comparative Perspective.” Journal of Politics 70 (2): 323334.10.1017/S002238160808033XCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mansfield, Edward D., Mutz, Diana C., and Silver, Laura R.. 2015. “Men, Women, Trade, and Free Markets.” International Studies Quarterly 59 (2): 303315.10.1111/isqu.12170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mendelberg, Tali, Karpowitz, Christopher F., and Goedert, Nicholas. 2014. “Does Descriptive Representation Facilitate Women’s Distinctive Voice? How Gender Composition and Decision Rules Affect Deliberation.” American Journal of Political Science 58 (2): 291306.10.1111/ajps.12077CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nielson, Daniel L. 2003. “Supplying Trade Reform: Political Institutions and Liberalization in Middle-Income Presidential Democracies.” American Journal of Political Science 47 (3): 470491.10.1111/1540-5907.00034CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Paxton, Pamela, Hughes, Melanie M., and Barnes, Tiffany D.. 2020. Women, Politics, and Power: A Global Perspective. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
Schweizerischer, Bundesrat. 2002. “Bericht über zolltarifarische Massnahmen im 1. Halbjahr 2002.” Bundesblatt 2002 (38): 60296036. Scholar
Schwindt-Bayer, Leslie A., and Mishler, William. 2005. “An Integrated Model of Women’s Representation.” Journal of Politics 67 (2): 407428.10.1111/j.1468-2508.2005.00323.xCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Simmons, Joel W. 2016. “Resource Wealth and Women’s Economic and Political Power in the U.S. Senate.” Comparative Political Studies 49 (1): 115152.10.1177/0010414015597510CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thomas, Sue. 1994. How Women Legislate. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
United Nations. 2018. White Paper on Women in Trade Facilitation, ECE/TRADE/C/CEFACT/2018/10. Geneva: United Nations Economic and Social Council. Scholar
United States Congress Joint Economic Committee. 2016. The Pink Tax: How Gender-Based Pricing Hurts Women’s Buying Power. December.Google Scholar
United States Tariff Commission. 1960. Tariff Classification Study. Proposed Revised Tariff Schedule of the United States. Washington, DC: Report to the President and to the Chairmen of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House and the Committee on Finance of the Senate.Google Scholar
Wängnerud, Lena. 2009. “Women in Parliaments: Descriptive and Substantive Representation.” Annual Review of Political Science 12: 5169.10.1146/annurev.polisci.11.053106.123839CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Weeks, Ana Catalano. 2020. “Making Gender Salient: How Gender Quota Laws Affect Policies for Women.” Book Manuscript.Google Scholar
World Bank. 2019. World Development Indicators. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
Yazcoğlu, Alara Efsun. 2018. Pink Tax and the Law: Discriminating against Women Consumers. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Supplementary material: PDF

Betz et al. supplementary material


Download Betz et al. supplementary material(PDF)
Supplementary material: Link

Betz et al. Dataset