Digital Exclusive: Racial disparities in auto insurance still persist after reforms

Digital Exclusives

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Despite reforms led by Governor Whitmer in 2019, new information shows that racial disparities in auto insurance still exist.

“This latest study was essentially a look now at out rates have changed both in Michigan and in Detroit,” said Patrick Cooney, Assistant Director of Policy Impact at Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan.

Cooney led a follow-up report about Michigan’s car insurance problems that stemmed from Whitmer’s reform attempts

“The 2019 reform law sought to reduce the use of nondriving factors by eliminating the use of zip codes in determining rates, by eliminating the use of credit scores, a lot of these factors that would end up having a racially discriminatory impact due to historic or persistent racial discrimination in a variety of other things around employment, housing, and education.

But he says the 2019 reform law left loopholes.

The report found despite insurance rates dropping by nearly 20% from 2019 until 2020, racial disparities are still around.

Across Michigan, The average premium in 2019 for 37 zip codes with Black residents was $5,500, compared to $3,106 for the statewide average.

“You’re not going to ‘solve poverty’ until you reduce the barriers for people to get ahead, said Amanda Nothaft.

She’s the senior data and evaluation manager at poverty solutions at UoM.

She says they used census data and a system called “Zebra.” that looks at zip codes statewide to understand insurance pricing.

What they found is insurance companies are using workarounds

“Insurers can no longer use credit scores, but they can use insurance scores,” said Cooney.

“I want the community to realize that there’s more that can be done,” Nothaft said.

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