Sunday, December 20, 2009

MP Dunleavy (MSN Money): Why it costs more to be a woman

There are a number of structural factors that put women behind men in terms of economic progress. They are usually the ones to care for children and for aging parents, and taking time off from the work force hurts their lifetime earnings. They do experience job discrimination. Even if they make progress in certain fields, men are more likely to take the more prestigious jobs in the field; for example, even though women can be priests and bishops in the U.S. Episcopal Church, and even though the Presiding Bishop is a woman, women are still less likely to be the rectors of larger parishes and cathedral deans, or to hold other major appointments. And then, there's one absolutely nonsensical way in which women are penalized: MP Dunleavy of MSN Money documents the fact that many women's personal care products are basically more expensive versions of the same products marketed to men:

Babasol justifies charging 70% more per ounce for the female-branded shaving cream by claiming it meets a woman's needs. As Marks says, "You're paying for a convenience factor."

Say your boyfriend tells you that his apartment costs $500 a month and that one just like it is available in his building. When you go to check it out, the landlord tells you the rent will be $850 -- 70% more.

That's crazy, right? That would never happen in real life, would it? Don't bet your depleted dollars on it:

A 2006 study (.pdf download) by the Consumer Federation of America indicated that women were 32% more likely than men of similar income to carry subprime mortgages. Those subprime interest rates topped 7.66% when the average prime mortgage rate was 5.87%. On a $100,000 loan, that's nearly $120 a month more -- about $43,000 more over 30 years. Women were 41% more likely to end up with high-cost subprime loans, at rates above 9.66%.

Most recently, during the debate over health care, another nasty reality was brought back into the spotlight: Many insurance companies charge women higher premiums and/or impose harsher terms (by rejecting claims or curtailing coverage), especially for those of childbearing age. Examples ranged from 22% to 50% higher, depending on age and state.
That adds up to a lot more than a buck here or there at Walgreens.

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