Monday, 7 March 2011

The price of equality

I was talking to the students today about the new ruling that it is gender discrimination to give women cheaper car insurance on the basis that we have fewer accidents - please don't start telling me that we cause more...
I am actually all in favour of this ruling. It may indeed be the case that men, and young men in particular, have statistically more accidents, but individuals are not statistics and I can't see why responsible drivers should pay more because of the behaviour of others who just happen to be the same gender.

I will miss those Shelia's wheels ads though, don't you just love this one?


  1. LOL!!! My Dad always says 'women drivers come in both sexes and all ages...'
    Gosh statistics are amazing you can prove anything with them can't you? not that I'm saying women aren't better drivers, of course they are ;)
    But anyway.. I do get wound up when people talk about equal opportunities etc. For goodness sake, men and women ARE different. I would not want to be treated the way men get treated sometimes and I am sure my husband would feel the same about being treated as a woman. (ok lets leave aside pay scales etc) We should all be assessed/judged/ looked upon as inidividuals rather than being defined by sex/age/profession or otherwise...
    rant over ;)

  2. Perfectly happy with this equality if we also get equality of pay, equality of opportunity and equality of bloody hair cutting prices! :)

  3. I think the ruling is wrong; as will removing age profiling for insurance. The reason why is because it negates what is the nature of insurance. Insurance is in effect a bet or gamble on the part of an insurance company. We pay a premium, which is calculated on the chances of a person having an accident. A teenage boy is far more likely to have an accident that is his fault than a middle-aged man. Just as a teenage woman is far less likely to have an accident than a teenage boy; while a middle-aged woman is likely to have less chance of an accident than all of the others. So why shouldn’t women pay less for insurance? Surely good behaviour should be rewarded, while bad should bring with it a financial cost.

    It is utilitarianism taken to extreme – and I believe part of the problem our society today is that there is a sizable MINORITY of people who think it is their right to be treated equally despite the fact they do not behaviour responsibly or contribute equally to the society they are so keen to take from. Yes, in the current system of insurance, men come off worst – but then perhaps men, who are more likely to have an accident, should think about the way they drive. But this system is unfair on people such as myself who when I recently retook my test as part of a ‘safer’ driving course run by my local police force, I scored as a borderline ‘advanced’ driver and advised to take the advanced driving test. I might get a few pounds a year off my premium for doing this; why can’t it be extended to all drivers?

    Perhaps what would really be fair would be for individuals to have the chance to take a specialist driving test every five or so years and the results could be used to calculate insurance. Cheaper car insurance can then be awarded on merit rather than the niceties of ‘equalities’ law’. Of course this is to my mind just another one of these issues where ‘equality’ becomes ideological, but real equality, as Lesley says, is nicely forgotten about. Who does the most domestic tasks in even the most ‘liberated’ household – usually the woman... Alas the only people who are really going to make on this ‘ruling’ are the shareholders and senior managers of insurance companies!


  4. There is no doubt that a significant proportion of young male drivers are complete idiots behind the wheel. The term "boy racer" did not come out of thin air. If we get rid of discounts for young female drivers on sexism grounds we should also get rid of the huge discounts mature drivers get on their car insurance on the grounds that it is agist. However, I don't think there is any statistical reason why mature female drivers should get cheaper car insurance than mature male drivers.

  5. But isn't insurance based on risk-assessment? If reliable statistics show female drivers have a lower risk of accidents than male drivers, then isn't it fair that women should pay less?

  6. I thought this one might be controversial!
    My problem with basing the difference on gender is that it is such a large group to make generalisations about. I think it is true that there is a higher proportion of boy racers than girl racers, but I think there are also many responsible young male drivers and the insurance really is prohibitive for them. I've met male students who are in this position when female peers aren't, that is hard, especially when , as one boy was telling me, he does know some female drivers who drive like maniacs.

    I think the idea of retaking tests and getting rewards is a good one though. It is also true that quite a few teenaged boys are a liability behind the wheel!

  7. But they're not basing the difference on gender they base it on actuarial risk calculations.
    That they show up a gender differnece is a diffent matter altogether.

  8. They're not basing it on gender per se, but the discriminator is a gender difference. For example, would it be fair to make gay men pay higher life assurance costs if statistically they had a higher chance of dying of HIV infection? I suppose I think the majority of men aren't going to have accidents, I am not sure the majority should pay disproportionately for the actions of a minority of their gender who do happen to be careless or reckless. And it is an awful lot more money in many cases!

  9. Suem is right. Insurance companies are very selective when it comes to basing their rates on statistics. For example, if it was shown that young male drives with a Chinese ethnicity were far less likely to have accidents than their Caucasian contemporaries (which is extremely possible because of cultural differences), the insurers would never dare offer them cheaper rates because of the fear of being accused of racism. If sexism is as illegal as racism then they cannot discriminate on the grounds of gender.

    With schemes like Sheila's wheels it is more about building up a huge portfolio of one group of driver and gaining a whole section of the market for itself than rewarding women for being better drivers. This is a normal business practice and not restricted to the insurance industry.

  10. Insurance is also based on other statistics, post code, for example, so MP's Chinese people in Soho are likely to get a better premium than those with the same external factors in nearby Piccadilly.

    And all premiums are individually adjusted anyway, taking into account type of car, parking arrangements, how long someone has been driving, points on license, no claims bonus, track record of named second driver etc.
    I'd be pretty surprised if all drivers on Sheila's wheels paid the same premium regardless of any other factors.

    If gender was the only differentiating factor it would indeed be unfair.

    I don't know whether gay men pay different private health insurance premiums so I can't say anything about that. But, same with cars, different groups of people pay different premiums and none of us is up in arms about it.
    It's only when gender becomes a genuine differentiating factor that we call it unfair discrimination.

  11. Well, we get students who are brother and sister and the brother is quoted much higher insurance - and I heard on the radio of a case of 18year old male and female twins, his quote was almost twice hers, so in that case the only differentiating factor was gender.

  12. Yes, but that's because gender is a genuine determining factor, on average, in actuarial terms.

    Just like including post codes into the calculation doesn't mean that everyone in that street will have exactly the same claims history, only that statistics show that they are x% likley to make a claim costing an average of y£ in money.

  13. What about lesbian drivers? How do they rate riskwise? I'd hate to think that they are getting a female discount on their insurance and then driving round suburbia like Stirling Moss.

  14. Well, there are arguments for and against, it just doesn't seem fair to me that a responsible male driver should pay so much more (and it is a lot more) purely because he happens to be male.

    I think we are dealing with some stereotypes here, MadPriest:)


    This is quite an interesting article on insurance discrimination on grounds of sexuality.

  16. No more so than Sheila's Wheels stereotype women in general, Suem? Anyway, I'm not saying that lesbians are bad drivers because I don't know if they are or not. However, if they are I think women drivers should sign an affidavit stating that they really dig men before being given any discount.

  17. MP, lesbian drivers are the WORST! If there was any justice in the world they'd pay the highest premiums, ever, always.

    Sue, but the argument stands whichever calculations you apply. Why should the responsible driver pay more just because he lives in a particular post code area?
    It's not about an actual individual maybe being a better driver than another, but about statistical factors that, all together, make up a risk profile.
    As insurance is always taken out in advance of an event, it must by nature remain theoretical (mathematical) to a certain degree.

    You either accept the principle that there are some statistical reasons to weight some people differently from others, or you apply one and the same premium across the board for everyone.

  18. I think the real problem is that we are so sensitive to gender inequality that we tend to judge absolutely everything in terms of discrimination and we lose sight of the fact that there may be some real differences that do count in certain circumstances.

    I'm saying that it appears that women on the whole cause insurance companies less financial damage than men and that weighting the premiums in their favour is therefore justified.
    You seem to be saying that just because the difference happens to be between men and women it must be disregarded, because while all differences are valid, gender difference are not under any circumstances.

  19. Shelia's Wheels deliberately play on gender stereotypes in their ads, MP, which is a bit different.

    I think the reason for the postcode premiums is to do with how likely cars are to be broken into, rather than how responsible drivers in a certain postcode are. Some companies don't even offer insurance to certain post code areas. I am not sure that is right either.
    I have to say I do think gender is too blunt a tool/ broad an area for discrimination to be fair. There is huge scope for individuals to deviate from the "norm" - and I would argue reckless driving is not even the "norm" among men, it is just more common. So, I think the majority are pay disproportionately for the minority on the basis of an accident of birth. I just personally don't think that is fair.
    I think the fair way might be to reward people for good and safe driving record over time, or perhaps, as S suggested for taking an advanced test, and to penalise on the basis of claims made/ speeding offences etc.

  20. I was deliberately playing on gender stereotypes, so there is no difference.

    Don't argue with me, Suem. I'm a man, you'll never get me to admit defeat.