MINDING THE GAP

Would you use an app that splits your restaurant bill by privilege?

Splitting up a dinner bill with a large group of friends can be a real pain. An even split is the simplest way, but usually not the most equitable. Going through each item can be far too tedious, especially after a few glasses of wine. But what if you want to make it really fair in the broadest economic sense, even accounting for the wage gap? Well, you’re in luck; there’s now an app for that.

EquiTable is essentially a calculator, but instead of solving ordinary math problems, it splits up your bill based on privilege—defined as your relative earning power. After plugging in each person’s race and gender, the app pulls data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and then splits up the bill based on their demographic’s income. The idea would be that, say, a Latina woman would pay a much smaller portion of the bill than a white man.

EquiTable was started by Luna Malbroux, a comedian and the former education director at the Anti-Defamation League. “I spend lots of time talking about privilege and diversity,” Malbroux told Quartz. “It was important to have something tangible people can play with, which explores how identity affects people economically.”

Malbroux pitched the idea at Cultivated Wit’s Comedy Hack Day—a four-year-old event where people build humorous tech products. EquiPay, the app’s name at the time, took home the 2016 grand prize—the first female-led group to win. EquiTable will be the first app from the hackathon to be released to the public when it hits Apple’s App Store later this month. (Malbroux says there aren’t plans to launch on Android yet.)

EquiTable has other features, like rating how diverse your group is and sharing your payment on Twitter and Facebook. If your group is homogenous, there’s an option to donate to a charity like the American Civil Liberties Union.

Malbroux said the app is more of a conversation starter than anything else. She hopes the app shows that if the wage gap was discussed more often, we’d be inclined to do something about it.

The app already has been met with criticism from conservative bloggers, but Malbroux says the critiques mostly focus on whether the wage gap exists, rather than problems with the app itself. The topic has proven to be touchy: the app’s original name, EquiPay, was already in use by another company, which received “a lot of hate mail” about the app, Malbroux says. “We changed our name to clarify that.

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