Monday, November 12, 2007

Gender Discrimination at the Coffee Shop?

Tim Harford, Slate's "Undercover Economist," reports on research by economist Caitlin Knowles, who studied waiting times of different groups at eight coffee shops in the Boston area. One of the more robust findings was that women have to wait longer to receive their orders. This effect persisted even after controlling for the type of drink ordered. And, it did not appear to be a case of employees trying to flirt with female customers, as wait times increased when the shops were busiest (when you would think flirting is least likely to occur).

The results are a bit curious because many economists think that competition should reduce discriminatory practices. A discriminatory coffee shop is driving away customers and the associated revenues, which is not likely sustainable in a competitive environment.

1 comment:

  1. I think that the researchers might have forgotten to control for the "complaint" factor. In most cases, I have observed that a male customer will voice their displeasure less often than a female customer. The male customer will simply select a new coffee shop if their cup is served incorrectly.

    The slightly higher incidence of female complaints causes the coffee shop employees to focus more energy and thought on filling the female orders correctly the first time. This helps them to avoid additional work and may explain the discrepancy.