A new paper claims that NCAA Division I basketball teams irrationally charge too much for men’s games relative to women’s games. The paper is only available via purchase, so I can’t say much about the methodology, but I’m skeptical for one simple reason: Even with the higher ticket prices, more people attend men’s games. See here and here — this year, men had only two more teams than women did, but had an attendance of 25.4 million to women’s 7.5 million. If A and B are similar, A is more expensive than B, and A still sells better than B, it’s probably because customers — not just the people setting prices — think A is that much more valuable than B.
Now, this doesn’t disprove the authors’ thesis; it’s just a reason to doubt it. There’s a lot that goes into setting a ticket price to maximize revenue. Higher prices mean more money per ticket, but (usually) also that fewer tickets are sold. (Pretty much the only sure thing is that if you sell out early, your prices are too low, but by that point it’s too late.) Maybe women’s teams would have been better off with lower attendance and more per-ticket revenue. Heck, maybe basketball tickets are a “Veblen good,” and a higher price for women would actually increase attendance. (The authors suggest this in their summary, citing research that “lower-priced events are perceived as lower quality and less worth watching or attending.”) It just seems like a bit of a stretch.