Tim Harford on the recent EU ruling that insurers will no longer be allowed to consider gender in setting insurance rates:
He: And not before time. It’s outrageous that I have to pay more for my car insurance than you do. I’m a perfectly safe driver.
She: Of course you are, dear. But you also drive a lot more than I do, which is not unusual for men. Since you drive more miles you are exposing yourself to the risk of more accidents.
He: Am I? Oh.
She: This is one of the reasons that men have more accidents than women. Another, of course, is that some young men are aggressive, overconfident idiots. But in any case you should probably put the money you save into your pension pot because you’re going to need it when you get stuck with the low annuity rates we women have had to put up with.
He: But my life expectancy is shorter. I deserve much higher annuity rates. That’s outrageous.
She: So you’re outraged that discrimination against you hasn’t ended earlier, and equally outraged that discrimination in your favour isn’t going to continue for ever?
[. . .]
She: We might not get too comfortable. Insurers will start looking at other correlates of risk. The obvious one is how far people drive: men tend to drive more than women. Then there are issues such as the choice of a sports car rather than a people carrier. Such distinctions may carry more weight in determining your premium than they do now. As for annuities, if they can’t pay any attention to your sex they might start paying more attention to your cholesterol.
He: I can see that this might get very intrusive.
She: It might. Or it might get very clumsy. Mortgage lenders used to be accused of using geography as a way of discriminating against minorities in the US, since ethnicity and postcode can be closely correlated. There are modern analogies: since women are on average smaller than men, perhaps in the future premiums will be proportionate to height. Stranger things have happened.