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Generosity Is Admirable, But It’s Wasteful When Poorly Aimed

Here’s a letter to Washington, DC’s, WTOP Radio:

Sir or Madam:

Understandably, when reporting on the Girl Scouts’ admirable efforts to help the poor, you don’t wish to be critical (“3 Va. teens provide community with a Free Period Pantry,” Nov. 18). But objectivity is served by noting that your report furthers two fallacies.

First, the notion that feminine products are prohibitively costly for the poor is false. A 2021 survey found that the monthly amount spent in the U.S. by the average woman on menstrual products is $13.25 – or 44 cents a day. With the average annual income, after taxes and transfers, of households in the lowest quintile being just shy of $50,000,* expenditures on feminine products by an average poor household with even six women of reproductive age would consume less than two percent of that household’s income.

Second, the fact that all of the menstrual products made available by the Girl Scouts free of charge are quickly scooped up does not, contrary to your report, “prove how badly period products are needed.” Instead, it proves simply that, compared to paying for products, people prefer to get them for free.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

* Phil Gramm, Robert Ekelund, and John Early, The Myth of American Inequality (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2022), Table 2.4, page 29.