Is it sexism to charge higher insurance rates for new male drivers with no record?

It seems Europe’s highest court says it is.

I’ve been the lone voice in the dark for years arguing that it’s unfair that a man is tattooed from birth as a higher risk by auto insurance companies and life insurance companies alike, and are stuck with higher insurance rates. Nothing a man ever does, especially during his youth, can get this mark of the beast taken off his forehead. This gender penalty can add up to a whole lot of extra money over the course of his lifetime - more or less depending on where you’re at, of course. Just because you were unlucky enough to be born a male. For women, on the other hand, they have traditionally suffered a heavy gender penalty in America when it comes to health insurance - and this accumulates a lifetime of monetary penalties for women.

The logic defending this kind of sexist discrimination also justifies discrimination based on race. Of course if there’s a logical difference between charging different rates based on race vs gender, please feel free to discuss that, too. The truth is, you can conjure up statistics showing that non-whites are worse drivers than whites on average, too.

I fully expect such a ruling to raise men’s health insurance rates and women’s auto rates - it may or may not result in a bigger loss for men as rates equalize in Europe, but hey, equality is equality, and IMO it’s about time this ruling happened.

Should we here in America have a ruling like this? I strongly believe so.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110301/ap_on_bi_ge/eu_court_sex_discrimination

It is sexism, but I’d prefer if the ruling didn’t happen, if only because maybe my parents might be able to afford the insurance to get me a car.

I’m not sure that’s true. For one thing, youth doesn’t last forever. In fact, it’s over remarkably fast. So just have patience. Second, once a man gets married, his insurance rates go down. So there IS something he can do.

Take it from a middle-aged, married guy: Car insurance rates for men aren’t high forever.

Sexism isn’t always or even often illegal. Should it be? Meh.

IIRC, male rates are higher because younger males are statistically more likely to get into an accident than a female of the same age, or an older male. So, insurance rates are higher, since they are more at risk.

Assuming my memory is correct, I’d say no…it’s not sexism (or, er, youthism I guess) to charge young males more if they are more likely to get into an accident than females of the same age, or other groups at different ages who are statistically less likely (as a group) to get into an accident. It’s called ‘business’.

-XT

Sure, but if insurers charged under race-based actuarial analyses, you’d be pretty upset.

Well, that’s a good point. I was going to say that if they had hard data on that, that it would only make sense, but a seconds thought on the probable reaction (even my own) shows that this would probably spark a firestorm.

-XT

No, but it ought to be remarked upon even-handedly, and there shouldn’t be groups whose concerns are automatically considered more or less legitimate or deserving of awareness.

The fun thing about statistical discrimination is that it breaks down the usual tribe vs. tribe groupings. It’s rational to be sexist (and racist) when it comes to auto insurance. But as a man the real people who cause me to be wronged are not the other tribe (women) but rather bad male drivers who make it rational to charge men higher rates in the absence of other evidence.

Some other cool analyses of statistical discrimination are in the post.

I’d prefer all contracts be gender neutral except for instances where it might be medically necessary to differentiate. I don’t think auto-insurance should be able to charge more, leaving insurance companies to raise the costs on females to balance their current set up, and with health insurance it should be the same way resulting in men paying higher costs then they would otherwise incur.

I wonder if this applies to other businesses. For example, could I own a restaurant and charge male customers more on the pretense that males would be more likely to be drunk, disorderly and cause me greater clean up costs? Or could a gift shop charge blacks a higher cost since they are more likely (statistically) to shoplift?

They do this. It is called Ladies Nights at bars where women get in free while men pay cover. However the motivation is different. The motivation with Ladies Nights is to get the women in so the men show up.

It seems to me that in the race to be perfectly non-discriminatory we are letting it get a bit out of hand. Men and women are different. Men tend to take more risks. Link. When the pricing for a product depends on the risks a person may take, it seems that looking at the demographics is a reasonable thing to do.

On a side note, if I understand correctly a large number of chain stores charge more for products in low income areas because the likelihood of theft is greater in those areas.

Slee

I tend to agree, but as others in this thread have pointed out, are we ready to take this to the extreme?

At a gift shop, can the owner post on an item: “Whites, $1.95, Negroes $2.15” in order to defray his shoplifting costs? (Let’s assume that the demographics show that blacks are more likely than whites to be convicted of a crime like shoplifting)

If he cannot, then why not? And how is this different than car insurance pricing people based on sex and age?

Well, it’s not exactly the same. We can and do discriminate based on age and sex in other arenas where we don’t discriminate based on race.

Is there any real moral justification for that, or is it just about the differential political power and lawsuit readiness of different interest groups?

“male rates are higher because younger males are statistically more likely to get into an accident than a female of the same age, or an older male. So, insurance rates are higher, since they are more at risk…”

I’m not certain that’s as true as it once was. Females are less prone to racing and thrill seeking but are just as bad drivers as their male counterparts and even more prone to distracted driving.

If it wasn’t true, the insurers would have adjusted their rates by now.

One difference is that the people paying the $1.95/$2.15 are not the same people as the people doing the shoplifting.

When your insurance company charges you $X for an insurance policy, they’re basing that charge on their best, statistically-based estimate of what you personally (i.e. that particular policy) are likely to cost them.
Now, could an insurance company charge different rates to insure different races? I’d hesitate to say they absolutely shouldn’t be allowed to. But I don’t think they should do it, for two reasons.

(1) Race is a fuzzier, less well-defined status than age, sex, or marital status. What do you do about people of mixed heritage?

(2) When you impose a greater burden on people from a group which has historically been unfairly discriminated against, and which has been and perhaps still is at a disadvantage in life as a result of such discrimination, it’s more problematic, more frowned-upon (arguably, justifiably) than when you impose the greater burden on a group of people that has not been otherwise disadvantaged.

Excellent points.

Clever arguments, not sure about clever thinking. What it boils down to is “discriminating against men OK, discrimination against women uncertain, discrimination against whites OK but logistically difficult, discrimination against blacks not OK.” Which, regardless of the verbiage attached to it, just so happens to correspond precisely to the political lobbying power of these classes, and how many dirty looks you’d get if you generalized about them in upper-class society.

Perhaps a more clarifying question would be: regardless of logistical difficulties, on what groups are you allowed to use your knowledge about statistics, and on what groups are you supposed to pretend not be ignorant? At what threshold? And of course pretending to be ignorant to benefit one group necessarily harms another; is it the case that some groups are pretty much OK to harm and others are never OK?