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Gender disparity in online reputation: evidence from an online freelance platform



Publishing details

Social Sciences Research Network

Authors / Editors

Bairathi M;Lambrecht A;Zhang X

Publication Year



Online ratings aim to reduce information asymmetry between buyers and sellers and help buyers make more informed purchase decisions. However, a problem arises if ratings are biased and do not reflect true buyer satisfaction. We investigate online ratings for services provided by male and female freelancers using a unique data set from an online freelance platform that elicits both public and private ratings from buyers after completion of a job. Public ratings are displayed on the website while private ratings are not shared with either the freelancers or other buyers. Using private ratings as a proxy for buyer satisfaction, we find that, conditional on the same private rating, public ratings are higher for male than for female freelancers. We propose this is a result of buyers' gender stereotypes about confrontational behavior of freelancers following a critical review. Buyers are more concerned about a threat of confrontation with male than female freelancers and, thus, give male freelancers a higher public rating. We present three supporting pieces of evidence. We show that gender disparity in public ratings is most pronounced for buyers from countries with greater gender inequality, for buyers from US states with a lower percentage of women in the labor force, and in service categories where female freelancers are under-represented. These results matter for freelancers and platforms because systematic differences in evaluation by gender can lead to unfair outcomes for platform participants.


Online ratings; Gender disparity; Digital platforms

Series Number



Social Sciences Research Network

Available on ECCH


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