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Ladies First? A Field Study of Discrimination in Coffee Shops


  • Caitlin Knowles Myers with assistance of Marcus bellows, Hiba Fakhoury, Douglas Hale, Alexander Hall, and Kaitlin Ofman*



Despite anecdotal and survey evidence suggesting the presence of discrimination against customers in stores, restaurants and other small-transaction consumer markets, few studies exist that identify or quantify the nature of any unequal treatment. We provide evidence from a field study of wait times in Boston-area coffee shops that suggests that female customers wait an average of 20 seconds longer for their orders than do male customers even when controlling for gender differences in orders. We find that this differential in wait times is inverse to the proportion of employees who are female and directly related to how busy the coffee shop is at the time of the order. This supports the conclusion that the observed differential is driven at least in part by employee animus and/or statistical discrimination rather than unobserved heterogeneity in the purchasing behaviour of female customers.
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Suggested Citation

  • Caitlin Knowles Myers with assistance of Marcus bellows, Hiba Fakhoury, Douglas Hale, Alexander Hall, and Kaitlin Ofman*, 2007. "Ladies First? A Field Study of Discrimination in Coffee Shops," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0711, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mdl:mdlpap:0711

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John Yinger, 1998. "Evidence on Discrimination in Consumer Markets," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(2), pages 23-40, Spring.
    2. Conlin, Michael & Lynn, Michael & O'Donoghue, Ted, 2003. "The norm of restaurant tipping," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 297-321, November.
    3. Antecol, Heather & Cobb-Clark, Deborah A., 2008. "Racial and ethnic discrimination in local consumer markets: Exploiting the army's procedures for matching personnel to duty locations," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 496-509, September.
    4. Turner, Margery Austin & Mikelsons, Maris, 1992. "Patterns of racial steering in four metropolitan areas," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 199-234, September.
    5. Hamermesh, Daniel S & Biddle, Jeff E, 1994. "Beauty and the Labor Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1174-1194, December.
    6. Matt Parrett, 2006. "An Analysis of the Determinants of Tipping Behavior: A Laboratory Experiment and Evidence from Restaurant Tipping," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 73(2), pages 489-514, October.
    7. Orn Bodvarsson & William Luksetich & Sherry McDermott, 2003. "Why do diners tip: rule-of-thumb or valuation of service?," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(15), pages 1659-1665.
    8. Myers, Caitlin Knowles, 2004. "Discrimination and neighborhood effects: understanding racial differentials in US housing prices," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 279-302, September.
    9. John A. List, 2004. "The Nature and Extent of Discrimination in the Marketplace: Evidence from the Field," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 49-89.
    10. Ayres, Ian & Siegelman, Peter, 1995. "Race and Gender Discrimination in Bargaining for a New Car," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 304-321, June.
    11. Goldberg, Pinelopi Koujianou, 1996. "Dealer Price Discrimination in New Car Purchases: Evidence from the Consumer Expenditure Survey," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(3), pages 622-654, June.
    12. Graddy, Kathryn, 1997. "Do Fast-Food Chains Price Discriminate on the Race and Income Characteristics of an Area?," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 15(4), pages 391-401, October.
    13. Jan Ondrich & Stephen Ross & John Yinger, 2003. "Now You See It, Now You Don't: Why Do Real Estate Agents Withhold Available Houses from Black Customers?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 854-873, November.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Sexism at Starbucks
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2007-10-08 20:04:47

    More about this item


    economics of gender and minorities; consumer and market discrimination;

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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