The 'pink tax' isn't just on tampons and deodorant — women pay more for transit too

  • Women pay more to get around New York City in order to avoid harassment, an NYU study has found.
  • On average, women paid up to $US50 more than men, who paid no extra money to avoid similar incidents.
  • The center suggests more designated pickup locations with adequate lighting and employer-subsidized trips to help with the problem.

Women pay an average of $US26-$US50 more than men on transit each month, a new study has found, because of safety and abuse issues they face on a day-to-day basis.

Researchers at NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation asked 547 New Yorkers about their commuting habits and budgeting to gauge harassment they are victims of, and any steps people take to avoid it. Their findings show that the colloquial ‘pink tax’ – or premiums women pay on every day items – isn’t just limited to the checkout line, but also finds its way into getting around the city.

According to the study, 75% of women said they had experienced some form of harassment on pubic transit, while less than half of male respondents answered similarly. That statistic fits nicely with the study’s finding that a similarly high proportion of taxi and for-hire car trips were for female riders.

“For late night travel, most respondents feel safest using for-hire vehicles (42%),” study authors Sarah Kaufmann, Christopher Polack and Gloria Campbell write. “followed by taxis (16%), and then public transportation (15%).”

It seems intuitive that a car would be safer than a sparsely ridden late-night train home, but even New York City Transit’s efforts to curb harassment and attacks in the system seem to have little effect, according to selected responses published by the researchers.

“After waiting in line to speak with the person in the booth,” one person who did report to authorities said, “a train passed through the station, so I was told the person who harassed me had probably already left and it wasn’t worth calling the police. I then took a cab home.”

Then there’s the issue of child care.

On an increasingly crowded subway, travelling with children may not be ideal for caretakers. “Even as an able-bodied person,” one respondent wrote, “it is REALLY hard to get around the city with children.”


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“We estimate that the Pink Tax on women caregivers in New York City can reach up to $US100 per month in addition to regular travel expenses,” said the researchers.

To be sure, a significant proportion of responses in the survey came from affluent neighbourhoods of New York City, including the Upper West Side and Park Slope. Ninety-four per cent of respondents have a college degree or higher – more than three times the national average – the researchers said, which could affect their data and added to a disproportionate amount of subway riders on lines through those neighbourhoods.

The researchers plan to conduct another survey, that “will aim at a more diverse user base to provide a wider range of experiences.”

Based on the first round of results, the center has proposed “well-lit for-hire vehicle pickup points,” like Uber now provides in some locations, as well as subsidized work-railed rides like Lyft currently provides in Michigan and Medford, NJ.

“Conclusion: Women are more likely than men to change their behaviour in order to avoid harassment,” the study said.

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