You’ve probably read about girls and women unable to afford sanitary products in countries like Tanzania and Ghana. It’s also happening in New York, Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska.
A new study out of George Mason University found that 14% of college women are unable to afford tampons, pads, or menstrual cups at some point during the year, and 10% cannot afford them every month. Those numbers are strongly slanted toward women of color: a staggering 25% of Latina women report being unable to afford products in the last year, and 19% of Black women report the same.
In addition to the obvious stress this places on college women, the study also found that monthly period poverty correlates with higher rates of moderate and severe depression.
The average U.S. woman spends $160 per year on sanitary supplies—and that’s an average, meaning a large portion of American women are spending more. That totals an average of $6,360 between the ages of 12 and 52. In recent years, programs have cropped up at colleges to provide free reusable menstrual cups, which can cost $20–$50 each, though some women say that the cups do not fit them, or prefer tampons or pads.
The researchers suggest that all colleges should make sanitary products freely available, and that public policies should decrease the so-called pink tax in favor of more affordable (and likely subsidized) options. It’s also important to stock female restrooms at any event or organization.