Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Research Papers in Economics,
Stockholm University, Department of Economics

No 2013:6: A matter of transient anonymity: Discrimination by gender and foreignness in online auctions

Emma von Essen () and Jonas Karlsson Karlsson ()
Additional contact information
Emma von Essen: Dept. of Economics, Stockholm University, Postal: Department of Economics, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Jonas Karlsson Karlsson: Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University., Postal: SOFI, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: This study shows that transient anonymity affects buyer discrimination based on seller’s gender and foreignness in online auctions. Sellers’ names are categorized by gender and foreignness. Half of the sellers’ disclose their names in the usernames and the other half employ anonymous usernames, concealing gender and foreignness. After the price is set and the auction ends, the seller’s name is always disclosed to the buyer by eBay. We explore buyers’ discrimination in willingness to pay, measured as price. Furthermore, we study how buyers’ discrimination in providing feedback is affected by sellers having an anonymous username or not (measured after seller name is known to the buyer). Our results indicate only some evidence of buyer discrimination in willingness to pay. However, interestingly we find that anonymity matters for discrimination; among sellers employing anonymous usernames male sellers with foreign-sounding names receive fewer pieces of feedback than non-foreign female sellers. This is not found among groups of sellers whose names were revealed in the usernames. This discrimination is only present among female and not among male buyers.

Keywords: transient anonymity; discrimination; gender; foreignness; online auctions

JEL-codes: C93; D12; J15; J16

36 pages, February 22, 2013

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