EquiPay: “Reparations, One Meal At A Time”

EquiPay, a bill-splitting app that accounts for racial and gender income inequalities, is on its way to becoming a reality, after starting as a joke at Cultivated Wit’s Comedy Hack Day. With EquiPay, the idea is “reparations, one meal at a time,” so instead of splitting meals equally among friends, it’s about splitting them equitably. In March, the plan is to make an iOS app available to the masses, EquiPay creator and comedian Luna Malbroux told me.

“For centuries, women and people of color have worked day in and day out only to be burdened by unequal pay for equal work,” Malbroux said on stage.

If the U.S. were to pay reparations to African-American people for 250 years of slavery, 90 years of Jim Crow laws, 60 years of “separate but equal” doctrine and 35 years of racist housing policy, it would cost somewhere between $5.9 trillion and $14.2 trillion, according to a 2015 paper by University of Connecticut researcher Thomas Craemer, published in Social Science Quarterly. Given that it doesn’t seem likely that the U.S. government will pay up anytime soon, if ever, EquiPay enables individual people to take matters into their own hands.

EquiPay “developed a complex algorithm that takes into account history,” Malbroux said on stage. “We call it, affirmative fractions.” In actuality, it’s based on income data from the U.S. Department of Labor. So, let’s say I, a black woman, am out to dinner with a white man and a white woman. The white man would pay the most, followed by the white woman. I would pay the least :-)

If someone in the group isn’t down with the cost breakdown, the app makes it possible to protest from a range of pre-populated excuses like, “I’m conventionally unattractive,” “I was a middle child,” “I’m aware of my privilege,” “I spent $400 on improv classes” and “this isn’t an issue anymore.”

If someone selects, “this isn’t an issue anymore,” the app prominently displays some stats on the wage gap, noting that women make 78 cents for every $1 a man makes. For women of color, that figure is even lower. African-American women earn 64 cents for very $1 a white man makes, and Hispanic women make 56 cents per dollar earned by white men.

So, why would people — especially white men — ever want to use this app? Well, “we at EquiPay know people love social recognition for being socially conscious, so we’ve created a share feature,” Malbroux said. The share feature tweets something like, “I helped fix the wage gap with lobster bisque.”

Although Malbroux and her team of six people are launching the app next month, the goal isn’t necessarily to make money, Malbroux told me. She’s more so interested in putting it out there and seeing what comes from it.

“[The wage gap] is an issue that’s really important to me,” Malbroux told me. She also wants to contribute to the conversation around the way intersectionality operates in our society.

I highly recommend checking out the pitch at Comedy Hack Day. It’s hilarious, and so on point.