What’s the Bleeding Problem? Period Poverty, Information Failure and Consumer Preferences in the Global South
27 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2021 Last revised: 11 Mar 2021
Date Written: December 11, 2019
A combination of commercial interests, cultural constraints and illiteracy have shaped the period product markets in the Global South such that disposable pads have gained in popularity but relatively little is known about reusable innovations that could support the goal of eradicating period poverty sustainably and equitably. This work examines how asymmetric information in this market affects consumer choices by drawing on a field experiment and survey with 277 women from low-income households in India. Through a careful consideration of the cultural context and policy backdrop in which decisions on menstrual products and practices are made we draw two key conclusions. First, we find that consumers are effectually denied all agency over choice of period product and are forced to select disposable pads, frequently at aberrant consequences for themselves and their environments. Such ‘perverse selection’ is manifested as a relational bond with disposables grounded in emotional and habitual cues. This poses a serious challenge to the introduction of reusables. Second, we demonstrate that ‘informed choice’ is a viable policy tool with potential to steer the menstrual product market in a beneficial direction both for costs to consumers and to their environmental eco-systems.
Keywords: period poverty, menstrual hygiene, information failure, relationship theory, informed choice.
JEL Classification: I12, I18, M31, O38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation