Report: Car insurance rates much higher in minority areas

AP Photo/Marcus R. Donner

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new report suggests that people living in urban minority neighborhoods could be paying as much as 30 percent more for car insurance, but an industry group says the report’s findings are flawed.

Nonprofit investigative news organization ProPublica and Consumer Reports published an analysis Wednesday based on insurance data in California, Illinois, Missouri and Texas detailing insurance claims payments by zip code. Those were the only states where regulators had the data available.

The report says 33 of the 34 insurance companies analyzed in Illinois charged rates that were at least 10 percent higher in zip codes where a majority of the residents are minorities. Six Illinois insurers charged rates 30 percent higher in minority zip codes.

In Missouri and Texas, more than half of the insurers charged rates that were at least 10 percent higher in minority areas.

In California, where insurers are regulated more tightly, eight companies were charging significantly higher rates in minority zip codes.

Marta Tellado, president and CEO of Consumer Reports, said discriminatory insurance pricing can be a drain on household budgets, limit employment opportunities and limit growth in communities.

“Whether price disparities arise from bad actors or bad algorithms, the consequences are the same, and (Consumer Reports) is committed to ensuring transparency and fairness in pricing for people in all neighborhoods,” Tellado said.

In making comparisons, the report looked at zip codes where a majority of the residents are minorities and compared them with other zip codes that had similar insurance claims payment totals. Then the report examined liability insurance premiums in each zip code for a 30-year-old female teacher with clean driving record and good credit.

The Insurance Information Institute trade group disputed the report’s findings after hiring an independent expert to review the data it’s based on. The group’s chief actuary, James Lynch, said the analysis in the report doesn’t account for other factors that can affect insurance rates.

“They’ve reached an inappropriate conclusion,” Lynch said.

Insurance companies don’t collect any information on race and ethnicity when they sell policies.

The exact factors used to set rates vary somewhat because of state laws, but Lynch said some common things insurers may look at include: number of miles driven, accident history, credit scores, occupation, gender and age.

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