Period poverty refers to the lack of access to menstrual products. The “luxury tax” collected on menstrual products in the majority of the United States is a major contributor to period poverty and a barrier to reproductive health for the estimated 16.9 million women living in poverty in the U.S. In this study, we sought to determine the financial, social, and political impact of the menstrual product tax on women of reproductive age in the U.S.
The cost and sales tax collected on a sample menstrual product (Playtex Sport Tampons, Regular & Super Multi Pack, Unscented – 50 Count) was compared when purchased through online retailers Amazon, Walmart, and Target in each state of the U.S. and the District of Columbia.
As of June 2019, thirty-five states taxed menstrual products at rates between 4.70%; in Hawaii to 9.90%; in Louisiana, with a mean of 7.41%. Among them, nineteen states taxed between 6 and 7.99%, twelve at >8%, and only four states at <6%. This financial burden decreased the accessibility of menstrual products specifically for the marginalized low-income women and women with heavy menstrual bleeding. The lack of access to menstrual products led to poor menstrual hygiene, decreased participation in work and other activities and contributed to poor quality of life.
The menstrual product tax exacerbates period poverty and negatively impacts the quality of life of women by decreasing the accessibility of menstrual products. Our research supports the repeal of this tax in consideration of its financial, social, and political implications.