This research aims to demonstrate that the abundant marketing data that companies are using to explore new business opportunities can be an equally fertile source for uncovering an undesirable social attitude or behavior that may be relevant to firms’ business. Companies may benefit from this knowledge when developing innovative new programs that aim to benefit society such as CSR initiatives. In this study, we examine boy-girl gender discrimination in China as manifested in parents’ purchase decisions on behalf of their children across different markets. Our study in itself is significant because it is the first large-scale empirical work to clearly verify the phenomenon of boy-girl discrimination, taking advantage of e-commerce data. Specifically, we compare the clothing expenditures on boys versus girls using a rich, household-specific dataset obtained from two online retailers. We found a significant effect of higher expenditure on boys over girls, and the relative expenditure difference grew bigger in less developed areas as compared to metropolitan areas. We found that the patterns of gender inequality vary systematically across different geographic markets and social economic conditions. The relative expenditure difference between boys and girls is closely tied with social-economic conditions, education levels, and birth rates of a district. Managerial and social implications are discussed.
China Europe International Business School (CEIBS)