Price Disparities in Car Insurance Premiums between Minorities and Whites: Showcasing the Best in Journalism (Part 1)

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One of the purposes of this blog is to expose the reader to quality analysis and credible news outlets. I will debut some lesser known news outlets over the coming weeks. You will be exposed to news outlets that provide penetrating analysis, sound methodology, and relevant and interesting topics.

Our first featured publication is ProPublica. This news outlet is a non-profit entity that features independent reporting. They try to cover stories that are in the public’s interest. Their publication provides in-depth analysis and they will, sometimes, reveal the methodology they used to arrive at their conclusions.

My goal here is to get beyond the “fake news” mudslinging and showcase news worth reading.

Here is how one of their stories starts:

Minority Neighborhoods Pay Higher Car Insurance Premiums Than White Areas With the Same Risk

by Julia Angwin, Jeff Larson, Lauren Kirchner and Surya Mattu, ProPublica

Otis Nash works six days a week at two jobs, as a security guard and a pest control technician, but still struggles to make the $190.69 monthly Geico car insurance payment for his 2012 Honda Civic LX.

“I’m on the edge of homelessness,” said Nash, a 26-year-old Chicagoan who supports his wife and 7-year-old daughter. But “without a car, I can’t get to work, and then I can’t pay my rent.”

Across town, Ryan Hedges has a similar insurance policy with Geico. Both drivers receive a good driver discount from the company.

Yet Hedges, who is a 34-year-old advertising executive, pays only $54.67 a month to insure his 2015 Audi Q5 Quattro sports utility vehicle. Nash pays almost four times as much as Hedges even though his run-down neighborhood, East Garfield Park, with its vacant lots and high crime rate, is actually safer from an auto insurance perspective than Hedges’ fancier Lake View neighborhood near Wrigley Field.

On average, from 2012 through 2014, Illinois insurers paid out 20 percent less for bodily injury and property damage claims in Nash’s predominantly minority zip code than in Hedges’ largely white one, according to data collected by the state’s insurance commission. But Nash pays 51 percent more for that portion of his coverage than Hedges does.

For decades, auto insurers have been observed to charge higher average premiums to drivers living in predominantly minority urban neighborhoods than to drivers with similar safety records living in majority white neighborhoods. Insurers have long defended their pricing by saying that the risk of accidents is greater in those neighborhoods, even for motorists who have never had one.

But a first-of-its-kind analysis by ProPublica and Consumer Reports, which examined auto insurance premiums and payouts in California, Illinois, Texas and Missouri, has found that many of the disparities in auto insurance prices between minority and white neighborhoods are wider than differences in risk can explain. In some cases, insurers such as Allstate, Geico and Liberty Mutual were charging premiums that were on average 30 percent higher in zip codes where most residents are minorities than in whiter neighborhoods with similar accident costs.

Our findings document what consumer advocates have long suspected: Despite laws in almost every state banning discriminatory rate-setting, some minority neighborhoods pay higher auto insurance premiums than do white areas with similar payouts on claims. This disparity may amount to a subtler form of redlining, a term that traditionally refers to denial of services or products to minority areas. And, since minorities tend to lag behind whites in income, they may be hard-pressed to afford the higher payments.

This article can be found here. As I said earlier, ProPublica was not satisfied to simply provide the story. A follow-up article was written that details the methodology and statistical data they used to arrive at their conclusion.

This is the kind of reporting Americans should read and support.

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