US study highlights 'gender price gap'

US study highlights 'gender price gap'

A study examining the "gender price gap" in the American publishing industry claims to show that books by men are valued more highly than books by women.

Books by female authors published by "traditional" (i.e. mainstream) publishers were found to command 45% of the price of male authors’ on average. 

The researchers posited that women authors were "underrepresented in more prestigious genres" and received "slightly less investment" on average from publishers in terms of being "less likely to be published in the formats that are more expensive to produce and distribute".

Female-dominated genres were found to be priced lower than male-dominated ones (what the researchers called "valuative discrimination") - but, even taking this into account, the gender price gap measured within genres was still 9% for traditionally published titles and 4% for self-published titles.

The researchers wrote: "These reduced but replicated patterns of gender discrimination observed in [self] publishing compared to traditional publishing suggest that the discriminatory behaviors of firms in traditional publishing have reflected not simply the biases and prejudices of these firms but also those of authors and/or the market. 

"They further suggest that publishing houses have not by and large buffered their authors from a discriminatory market, but may actually have heightened the potential for gender discrimination."

The article, published in the journal PLOS One and authored by sociologist Dana Beth Weinberg and mathematician Adam Kapelner of Queens College-CUNY, is based on the categorisation of over two million US book titles after reviewing 2002-2012 metadata from R R Bowker’s Books in Print.

The study follows ongoing concern in the UK that women authors struggle to get the same review and media coverage, as well as prize shortlistings and winnings, which prompted writer Kamila Shamsie to suggest a Year of Publishing Women in 2018. However no such 'gender price gap' study has been conducted in the UK.