How much does shaving your legs cost you?
June 10, 2014 10:50 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for any studies that examine time use and grooming, for men and women, and what that means for financial outcomes. NOT: Do well-groomed people get paid more?, but the time that women spend maintaining a traditionally "feminine" appearance, over a lifetime, means time NOT spent cultivating X Y and Z lucrative skills. Have you seen any economists studying this?

I've seen a journal of feminist economics, and I've seen other examples of time use and gender (like the "second shift,") but I've not read anything that examines the time women spend grooming/shopping versus the time men spend grooming/shopping and if that has a financial impact. Have you seen anything like this? Or could you suggest better search terms? Or point me towards someone's research that's generally in this ballpark?
posted by Ollie to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

The American Time Use Survey is about how people spend their time, and it includes grooming. You can break down the data by gender, and compare what men spend more time on that is making up for less time spent grooming.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 11:14 AM on June 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

So that first answer falls under the NOT category, but it seems like the question you are asking sort of needs to incorporate both sides of the question.

I mean, a big part of the reason that both men and women spend so much time on grooming is because it DOES impact their ability to get jobs and promotions, which is a financial outcome.

So, I mean, it seems like the question you're asking is "what is the lime we lose to grooming worth?" But that question is inextricably tied up in the question of how much a well-groomed person makes versus a slob.

Is the data you actually want a normalization of income for a well-groomed versus poorly-groomed person with their respective incomes averaged across the sum of total hours they spend working and grooming (and shopping for clothes? (with the cost of clothes and beauty products/services subtracted from their earnings?))?

Or do you just want to know how much time we spend grooming and assign an arbitrary lost value to that without considering the value gain of that activity?
posted by 256 at 11:16 AM on June 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

Hamermesh et al., Dress for success—does primping pay? [pdf] (2002). They analyzed earnings and clothing and cosmetics expenditure data from women in China and concluded that such spending paid back no more than 15% per unit of expenditure in the form of higher earnings. In other words, spending a dollar on cosmetics earned at most 15 cents, clearly a losing proposition from a purely economic point of view.

Admittedly, the comparison between men and women is only implicit, but buying and applying cosmetics are really only something women do in most cultures. So in the case of cosmetics, the time and money spent maintaining a traditionally feminine appearance (in the form of buying and applying cosmetics) represents a significant opportunity cost, assuming there's something one could do with one's time that would return more than 15% of the money invested, which seems likely. For example, working overtime would be much more lucrative.

Thus, one could interpret this study as standing for the proposition that women are socially required to effectively throw money away on cosmetics, whereas men are not.
posted by jedicus at 11:17 AM on June 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

So I went into the time use data linked above, and it appears that women spend, on average, about 1.5 hours more per week on personal grooming than men do. That translates into about 78 hours more per year than men. My guess would be that the value in terms of extra income gained from the extra grooming by women would more than offset the value that these extra 78 hours could provide in terms of other uses, but that's obviously something that could be investigated in greater detail.
posted by peacheater at 11:35 AM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

what about overall financial cost in doing the extra grooming, considering women still get paid less than men? women buy many things men never will in order to look good/well-groomed - well fitted bras, skin-colored underthings ONLY for wearing white or light colored clothes, slips, nylons/stockings, make up and associated application and removal implements...

(not to mention pads and tampons, but that's not part of outward-facing grooming)

is that part of this or just looking at time only? because it seems the extra time costs them not just time to build skills, but also costs them money.
posted by sio42 at 12:29 PM on June 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you did not shave your legs, say, would you actually spend that time cultivating lucrative skills? Or doing something else, or even doing nothing?
posted by fivesavagepalms at 2:33 PM on June 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think this goes under grooming... Many girls world-wide miss school and sometimes drop out because either their school doesn't have sanitary bathroom facilities or because they don't have appropriate or clean supplies for a girl's menses.

What's really sucky about this is that maternal literacy levels affect generational literacy levels and local literacy/income levels. Also, women are more likely to reinvest in their homes and local communities. So on a national level, women and girls' ability to groom directly impacts the economic wellbeing of the nation through its impact on education and education access.
posted by spunweb at 5:22 PM on June 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

i think if you're going to do any sort of comparison, you also have to factor in the cost of all the grooming products and services, which are SO high. SO HIGH.
posted by you're a kitty! at 10:19 PM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's a chapter devoted to this in Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine, and the rest of the book is great as well. The stats are...disturbing, to say the least.
posted by SinAesthetic at 1:24 PM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone. I had already seen the deLoach study and the Hamermesh, which will be useful for anyone else researching this topic, and the others provided some good food for thought as well.
posted by Ollie at 4:51 AM on September 11, 2014

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