By the time Cuqui Rivera had to renew her car insurance policy in December 2019, the longtime activist had only heard about some of the reasons she — a Hispanic female with a high school diploma — may pay more than her white, college-educated neighbors.
So, Rivera decided, “let me be your guinea pig,” she said. “Let’s see if this is true.”
She looked on the website of Liberty Mutual, the company she had been with for at least two decades, to see if it said anything about factoring education, work history and credit score into insurance rates. She said she found nothing.
Her annual policy with Liberty Mutual cost $2,997, Rivera said. She went to CURE, the West Windsor-based insurance company, and said she found the same policy for $1,188, a 60% savings.
That’s because CURE is the only insurance company that doesn’t factor in education, employment and credit score when determining a driver’s rate, according to the advocacy group New Jersey Citizen Action.
The result of using these “income proxies” in rate-setting is a racial and class disparity that Rivera and other advocates say amounts to widespread discrimination in New Jersey — disparities that the insurance industry does not deny but insists are incidental to societal realities beyond their control.
Advocates have pressed lawmakers, as they have for more than a decade, to change the law so companies can no longer use those factors and others, such as marital status and whether a driver owns a home, to determine insurance rates.
But their mission has been unsuccessful. A bill that would exclude those factors from insurance rate-setting narrowly cleared the Senate, but was not posted in the Assembly on the last day of the legislative session last week, meaning it must start the process over again.
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That means drivers in mostly Black neighborhoods in cities like Paterson, heavily Latino areas like Camden and low-income towns like Lakewood will likely continue paying higher rates for car insurance than people who live nearby in mostly white, higher-income communities such as Ridgewood, Cherry Hill and Brick.
On average statewide, drivers who live in majority Black and Latino ZIP codes pay nearly 50% higher premiums than those in majority-white ZIP codes, according to the Consumer Federation of America. Drivers in mostly low-income ZIP codes pay nearly 52% higher premiums, on average, than those in high-income areas, the federation said.
“There is a disproportionate penalty levied on African Americans and Latinos,” said Douglas Heller, an insurance expert with the consumer federation.
“Every day that is delayed” passing the insurance legislation, he said, “New Jersey residents with perfectly good driving records are paying too much for insurance because policymakers are afraid to stare down insurance companies.”
Representatives for insurance lobbying groups in New Jersey did not respond to interview requests, but in testimony on the bill last year they denied discrimination in rate-setting.
Rates can vary by hundreds of dollars within one small area. Take a four-mile stretch of mostly white towns in the Meadowlands, for example.
According to the data, the average annual rate in Carlstadt is $1,822. It’s $1,707 next door in Rutherford. And in the next town over, Lyndhurst, it’s $1,688.
But racial disparities are clear through New Jersey, according to a USA TODAY Network analysis of the data, which was collected in 2020 by the insurance data company Quadrant Information Services and provided by the federation.
All but one of the top 25 ZIP codes with the lowest average annual insurance premiums — about $1,071 — were mostly white, affluent suburbs concentrated in Hunterdon, Morris and Somerset counties, according to the analysis. The one ZIP code that was majority Black represented a population of 258 people across half a square mile in Bernards Township, a Somerset County town that is 68% white, according to U.S. census data.
The 25 ZIP codes with the highest average premiums — about $2,250 — were in mostly Black, low-income cities in North Jersey: Elizabeth; Fairview; Irvington; Newark; North Bergen; Passaic; and Paterson.
Rivera, a high school graduate who said she has a flawless driving record and excellent credit, is half Puerto Rican and lives in North Brunswick. The average annual rate there is $1,632, according to the data.
North Brunswick is a diverse community: 35% white; 25% Asian; 20% Black; 19% Hispanic; and its median household income of $96,546 is 20% higher than the statewide median of $85,751, according to Census Reporter, an independent website that centralizes and analyzes U.S. census data.
But if Rivera lived six miles west in Franklin Township, in Somerset County, she might pay less for car insurance. The average there was $1,537, nearly $100 cheaper than in North Brunswick, according to the consumer federation’s data.
Rivera has an added disadvantage, though: She’s female. Women paid on average nearly $100 more per year for car insurance than men, according to the data analysis.
“I’m being discriminated against,” said Rivera, who works with several advocacy groups and is a manager at the Puerto Rican Action Board and projects coordinator at the Latino Action Network, both in New Brunswick.
Broader factors, such as population and density, also drive up premiums in the densely-packed North Jersey cities where residents pay the most for car insurance. But individual factors such as education and credit score mean two people living in the same town with similar driving records may pay different rates.
Take Jonathan Forges. The 32-year-old Port Authority security guard, who emigrated from Haiti four years ago, said he has no points on his driver’s license and has taken defensive driving courses to save money on car insurance.
Still, the $3,500 a year he pays for two cars is higher than the average paid by men in his age group in Montclair, where he lives. The average annual rate in the mostly white, upscale suburb in Essex County is $1,425 for a 35-year-old single male, according to the federation’s data. It’s far lower for that same demographic with an excellent driving record: $842.
“We’re trying to do everything possible to lower this, and to find out all this information it’s, like, wow. Things are already stacked against us,” Forges said.
The insurance industry, which lobbied heavily against the bill, insists that setting rates is a sophisticated and scientific discipline blessed by the state’s oversight agency, the Department of Banking and Insurance.
That agency said in a 2008 report that insurance companies use more than a dozen factors to determine insurance rates, but race and income data are not collected by insurers.
Using education and occupation data, the agency said, was “actuarially valid.” Citing loss data from the insurer Geico, the department said drivers with bachelor’s and master’s degrees were “less risky” than the general population. Black and Latino drivers were less likely to hold college degrees and “professional” jobs, the report said, but it noted that “such groups are not singled out.”
The department also said car accidents were more common in urban centers, which have higher-than-average populations of racial minorities and low-income residents who don’t typically hold college degrees or professional jobs.
And credit-based insurance scores — different from typical credit scores — are predictive of claims and likely “to make the price of insurance better match the risk of loss posed by the consumer,” according to a 2007 study by the Federal Trade Commission.
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The commission acknowledged that Blacks and Hispanics are “substantially overrepresented among consumers with the lowest scores” and that likely has an effect on what those groups pay on average for insurance. But, like the state insurance agency, the trade commission said using credit scores has “little effect” as a “proxy” for race in insurance rates.
And credit scores are used along with many other components to determine rates, said Christopher Stark, who was an executive with the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies when he testified against the bill in 2020.
“It’s not like they just cease to look at the rest of the factors. It is in the insurer’s best interest — we take it as our responsibility — to make sure that we are matching risk to rate for the motoring public because that’s what’s fair to everybody,” Stark said.
Dustin Racioppi is a reporter in the New Jersey Statehouse. For unlimited access to his work covering New Jersey’s governor and political power structure, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
Best Indian Destination to Visit
Goa- Best Indian Destination to Visit
Goa is a state in western India. It is known for its beaches, backwaters, Adventure water Sports, waterfalls, and temples. It is a popular tourist destination due to its laid-back atmosphere, cheap hotels, and world-class restaurants. Palolem Beach, Colva Beach, Agonda Beach, Dudhsagar Falls, Anjuna Market, Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Braganza House, Mahadev Temple, Palácio do Deão, Mangeshi Temple, Fontainhas, Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary, and Reis Magos Fort are famous destination in Goa. And Goa is also know for night life. Enjoy Night clubs, party here . So in Goa you can teste a different culture in Goa.
Delhi- Best Indian Destination to Visit
Delhi is the national capital of India and home to 1.17 billion people. It’s a city of contrasts where modernity coexists with ancient history. From the busy streets to the quiet temples, Delhi offers something for everyone. Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Qutub Minar, Lotus Temple, Aksherdham, Zoo, Old Fort, India Gate, Humayun Tomb are some of best Destination to visit. Apart form these You can visit:- Lajpat Nagar, sarojini Nagar, Janpath and Jama Masjid are the best Shopping Places in delhi. And in delhi you can find out best street foods menu in veg and non veg dishes.
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Agra is a major city of Uttar Pradesh, and a major tourist attraction is located in Agra call as “ The Taj Mahal”. You can Expericne the art of Mughal empire in agra. ALso this is one of the places to visit near delhi within 200 kms. Beyond Taj Mahal You Can Visit These Places That Are Near Or In Agra. These places are Agra Fort, Sikandra, Fatehpur Sikri, Dayal Bagh Temple, Bateshwar Temple, Chini Ka Rauza, Keetham Lake, Mathura, and vrindavan. Mathura and vrindavan are close to agra about 70 Kms far. These are Hindu holy places.
Jaipur- Best Indian Destination to Visit
Jaipur is the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan. It alludes to the royal dynasty that once ruled the region and built the Old City, also known as the “Pink City” because of its distinctive building colour, in 1727. In the heart of a grand, colonnaded area lies the City Palace complex. Gardens, courtyards and museums still exist today as part of its royal house. Hawa Mahal, Jainivas Garden, City Palace, Amber Palace at Jantar Mantar, Samode, Light and Sound Show, Nahargarh Fort, Jaigarh Fort, Jal Mahal, Galtaji are some of the best places in Jaipur.
Kashmir- Best Indian Destination to Visit
Kashmir Valley is one of the top tourist destinations in India. Apart from its apple orchards, flower gardens and other attractions, Kashmir is famous for its natural beauty. With its distinctive handicrafts and famous Kashmiri shawls, it attracts tourists. The most popular tourist destinations in Jammu and Kashmir are Srinagar, Mughal Gardens, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Patnitop and Jammu. Many Hindu pilgrims visit Vaishno Devi and Amarnath every year, which has a significant impact on the state’s economy.
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Manali is a city in Himachal Pradesh, India. It is one of the top ski resorts in India. It is famous for its beautiful surroundings, favorable climate and extensive cultural history. It is a popular travel destination in India and attracts visitors from all over the world.
Manali is a popular honeymoon destination as you can witness snowfall and gorgeous mountain views from late December to early January. This is the ideal time for skiing enthusiasts. Camping, hiking, mountain biking, ziplining, rappelling, paragliding, downhill cycling, jeep safaris, river crossings, angling, and many other activities are available.
Kerala- Best Indian Destination to Visit
The Indian state of Kerala is situated on the moist Malabar Coast. It is famous for its backwaters, network of canals and palm-fringed beaches. The Western Ghats are naturally occurring mountains that support a wide variety of plant life including tea, coffee and spice plantations. Wayanad and other sanctuaries as well as national parks like Eravikulam and Periyar are home to elephants, langur monkeys and tigers. Alleppey, Kochi, Thekkady, Munnar, Thrissur, Kovalam, Wayanad, Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Kannur are best destination to visit in Kerala.
Andaman and Nicobar- Best Indian Destination to Visit
The Andaman Islands are an Indian island chain in the Bay of Bengal. And Due to the increasing popularity of beaches and adventure sports like snorkeling and sea walking, tourism to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is on the rise. Long Island, Havelock Island, Little Andaman Island, Diglipur, Parrot Island, Bharatpur Beach, Samudrika Marine Museum, Cellular Jail, Lamiya Bay Beach are some of the best spots to visit in Andaman and Nichobar. Indian tourists do not require a visa to visit the Andaman Islands, but if they wish to visit any tribal area, they require special authorization from the Deputy Commissioner at Port Blair. Foreign nationals require a permit. This clearance is given to foreign nationals coming by air on arrival at Port Blair. This can be a best Indian destination to visit.