When I was a kid, I had a LEGO spaceship kit. Most of the pieces were white, and I used them to make all sorts of things other than the spaceship itself; the cool domed pieces made really interesting bits on top of houses, cars, and superhero gear. LEGO always felt like a great gender-neutral toy that my brothers, sisters, and I could fight over gleefully.
Recently, my nephew turned five. A few weeks after his birthday (because I’m not exactly the best aunt in the world), I went shopping for LEGO Juniors at my sister’s request, and promptly lost my temper. I pulled up LEGO Juniors on Amazon.com and saw a bunch of classic red boxes, a bunch of blended red and pink boxes, and a bunch of bright pink boxes. I ordered the superhero sets my sister requested (and threw in Ironman vs. Loki because I LOVE that universe) and decided to take a deeper look.
A couple years ago, LEGO received some well-deserved criticism of some of its sets aimed at girls. Press consensus seemed to be that LEGO should go back to making the gender-neutral toys that they were so good at during my childhood. I naively assumed that LEGO had seen the error of its ways and stopped making virulent pink stuff for girls. I then continued on my merry, child-free way – until now, with my birthday adventures on Amazon.com.
To give Amazon credit, they put a lot of these virulent pink kits in the “boys” sub-category and most of the red kits in the “girls,” but the results still show an unequal 46 for boys and 41 for girls. In order to better grasp the true depth of the LEGO gender issue, however, I decided to look at a broader dataset than the toys I found on Amazon.
In the Indix Product Information Marketplace, I found 12,958 in-stock LEGO products across 97 online stores. A quick average showed a price of $36.60 per set. Amazon leads the stores carrying LEGO products; three-quarters of the products in our dataset are carried by Amazon:
Beyond the LEGO Junior sets that caused me to lose my temper, it turns out that LEGO carries 36 different product lines, 31 of which are building sets. Disappointingly, they still carry the “Friends” and “Disney Princess” lines for which they received criticism. On the bright side, however, neither of those lines stands out for either product count or pricing differences:
After that welcome news, I took a look at products by line to see whether they were targeted explicitly to boys or girls, and then looked at what the product counts and prices looked like. Of the 10,750 products for which I could determine product line, very few specifically targeted boys or girls (well, in the searchable data, anyhow). For the few that did, the average price for “girl” products was slightly lower than for “boy” products, at $25.30 per set versus $26.20 per set.
Thus far, everything seemed great. But I suspected that LEGO might be imposing a “Pink” tax subtly by pricing girls’ products (the pink ones) higher per piece than the red sets. I looked at LEGO Junior sets both on Amazon (the largest retailer of LEGOs) and on LEGO’s own websites, classified each set by color (pink, red, and the blend of both), and looked at average price per piece:
Once again, the pink sets don’t look bad at all. While they might be a higher price per set, they have more pieces in each set, leading to a lower price per piece.
Although the pink LEGO Junior sets originally made me see red, I am beyond relieved to discover no real evidence of LEGO’s imposing a Pink tax, with the pink sets priced higher just by virtue of being pink. Looking at LEGOs from a product-line perspective, a girl-versus-boy perspective, and checking out LEGO Juniors by price per piece all showed that, if anything, LEGO might have a bit of a “Blue” tax. However, since most LEGO sets don’t target either gender, it’s not appreciable.
I’m relieved that LEGO doesn’t impose a Pink tax, since this means that I can continue buying LEGOs for my nephew. Incidentally, as I found out after ranting to my sister, my nephew’s favorite color is pink, anyhow.