News Roundup: Study Finds Female Drivers In Texas Pay More For Auto Insurance

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelOctober 12, 2018 2:26 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

A new study finds women in Texas often pay more for auto insurance than men, simply because of their gender. Even when factors like driving record, age and address were the same – on average, female motorists were charged $56 more per year.

That’s according to a new report from Texas Appleseed, an advocacy group that promotes social and economic justice. The group analyzed online premium quotes from five large auto insurers in eight Texas cities, including Dallas, San Antonio and Amarillo.

Ann Baddour is Texas Appleseed’s director of Fair Financial Services. She says they identified gender-based discrimination in all of these cities, though some were worse than others.

“Houston stood out as the city with the largest gender penalty, so women were charged the largest amount difference, a 75-dollar difference over one year-period on average, compared to a similar man,” Baddour says.

Baddour says these arbitrary differences in pricing undermine trust in our market.

“Everybody is required to buy this product, and when you see one group of people being charged more with no clear reason why – just because we’re women – I think it really calls to question the fairness of the whole system,” Baddour says.

Baddour adds the Texas Department of Insurance bans discriminatory rates, and says state lawmakers may need to look at this issue.

“I think a first step is always to do a more detailed study that covers more markets in Texas to document how this is playing out across the whole state,” she says.

Of the five auto insurers studied, only State Farm offered the same prices for women and men. The other four companies surveyed are Allstate, Farmers Insurance, Geico and Progressive.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says it’s concerned about the Trump administration’s plans for a border wall through a south Texas park.

As Houston Public Media’s Travis Bubenik reports, Texas has previously told the feds the park could have to shut down if the wall gets built there.

Homeland Security is planning about 17 miles of wall and road building in Hidalgo County.  Part of that would cut through Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, a local bird-watching destination. A parks spokesperson says the department quote “continues to express concerns” to the federal government about the plan.

As the Texas Tribune has reported, the department has previously said a wall would limit access to the park and cause safety issues that could make it hard to keep open. The department says it’s “committed” to working with the government on quote “alternative solutions” that minimize impacts on the park, but also help border security.

Much of Texas has left drought in the dust, according to a weekly report from the U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday.

National Weather Service meteorologist Richard Tinker authored that report. He says sometimes fluctuations in dry conditions can be hard to figure out, but not in this case.

“Right now the situation is pretty simple, it was real dry and then you got a lot of rain,” Tinker says.

Roughly 12 percent of Texas is still experiencing drought.

Just three months ago, that figure neared 50 percent.

This time last year, just over 3 percent of the state was experiencing drought.