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Women Artists

Abigail LeBlanc and Stephen Sheppard
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Abigail LeBlanc: Williams College

No 2021-09, Department of Economics Working Papers from Department of Economics, Williams College

Abstract: Women account for slightly more than half of persons who identify some version of visual artist (artist, graphic designer, or photographer) as their occupation in the US, and account for slightly less than half of the recipients of MFA degrees in the US. While there are no available statistics on values and sales of works by these artists in the primary market of galleries, studios and private dealers there is considerable evidence from the secondary auction market. In both our sample of more than 313 thousand works offered for sale by more than 1080 artists, and in the larger sample analyzed by Adams, et al. (2021), works by female artists constitute approximately 7% of the works offered for sale at global auction houses. The works sell for substantially lower prices, with unadjusted discounts generally in excess of 40%. Even adjusting for a variety of characteristics, the impacts of artist's gender remain persistently negative with effects disconcertingly close to, but slightly larger than, observed wage and earnings gaps in the wider labor market. Systematic differences in the auction prices of art works by women artist have been observed and discussed for more than 50 years, but have evolved little over time.As is the case with gender disparities in the wider labor market, the causes for these gaps can be difficult to determine with precision. This makes the identification of structural changes that could be effective in reducing the gap a challenge. In this paper we build on the published studies in this area and consider these challenges. We consider a variety of possible explanations including whether works by women artists are substantially different in characteristics or content than works by other artists, whether they are avoided by the premier auction houses, and whether they tend to fail to sell at auction more frequently. We consider alternative approaches to estimating the impact of artist's gender on the valuation of artworks. We compare the estimated impacts of gender to the estimated impacts of ethnicity and national origin of the artist. We combine the insights from this analysis to narrow down the range of possible explanations for why these differences continue to be observed.

Keywords: Art markets; Gender; Discrimination (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J15 J16 Z11 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 49
Date: 2021-07-02
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cul, nep-gen and nep-lab
Note: This paper was presented at the ACEI 2020+1 conference
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Handle: RePEc:wil:wileco:2021-09