21.12.09

THE INFORMATION CONTENT OF PRICES. Are Connecticut and Tennessee leaving money on the table, or violating the civil rights laws, in selling tickets to their powerhouse womens' teams at lower prices than those for their solid mens' teams?

At the University of Connecticut, where the women's basketball team has won six NCAA championships and has a famously loyal fan base, single-game tickets are $22 for women's games. Single-game tickets for the men's team, which lost in the national semifinals this past spring, are $30.

"Tradition and history dictate the cost of the ticket," a spokesman for the Connecticut athletics department, Mike Enright, was quoted as saying in the report. "Historically, the women's tickets have always been a little less expensive than the men's tickets," he said.

"It's really a factor of … history and tradition—and not that the women's team doesn't have a great history and tradition—but the history of ticket pricing."

I remember learning something about supply and demand being more efficient explanations than tradition and history.
If demand for men's basketball is greater than women's basketball at equal prices, then market forces tend to increase the price for the service with higher demand. Since supply of seats is normally the same (since most NCAA schools play men's and women's games in the same venue), then the issue is on the demand side. Thus individuals attending NCAA basketball games have revealed that they have a greater preference for one gender's entertainment over another gender's entertainment. That is not the fault of the NCAA, but simply the reality that different people have different preferences.
Arguments from preference are not best, as they're not testable, although in principle, a researcher could estimate the demand curves for the teams and attribute a ceteris paribus difference in quantities at a common price to the underlying utility functions.

There's a further complication, Cold Spring Shops sources have informed the Superintendent. At many universities, the price at which that ceteris paribus demand curves predicts a full arena is also a price at which some of the consumers comprising that demand curve perceive the entertainment as not serious. That's an anomaly calling for more serious investigation. I hesitate to dismiss it out of hand, as it relies on the same thinking by which that $100 value for $19.95 on the overnight infomercial reveals itself as a fraud.

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