African Americans pay more for car insurance

African Americans with good driving records have to pay far more for their auto insurance than their white counterparts, according to a survey released on Wednesday by the Consumer Federation of America.

The survey looked at good drivers who live in ZIP codes mainly populated by African Americans and compared them to those in largely white areas. It found that quoted premiums were 70 percent higher for African Americans. The average premium for those with similar incomes and driving records was $1,060 for black drivers compared to $622 for whites, the CFA found.

"These findings suggest a troubling pattern of high rates in African-American communities regardless of driver history," Tom Feltner, the CFA's director of financial services, said in a statement. "We are not rushing to judgment about why this happens, but it is urgent that regulators, lawmakers, and the industry take a hard look at these findings and address the impact of high auto insurance prices on drivers living in predominantly African-American communities."

Historically, African Americans have had considerable challenges as consumers compared to their white counterparts. For instance, a recent study found they were more than twice as likely to be rejected for home mortgage applications than whites.

And The New York Times, among others, has found that blacks are far more likely to be pulled over in their cars than whites. Feltner told MoneyWatch he doesn't think that has any impact on the auto insurance rate disparity.

"Moving traffic violations such as speeding and dangerous driving do impact rates for individual drivers, but our research shows that this effect is minor compared to the impact of socio-economic factors, like education, occupation and credit score," he said.

The CFA looked at the premium disparity in a variety of different community types, finding that by far the biggest difference was in upper-middle-income areas. Upper-middle-class drivers in mainly African-American communities were quoted premiums an average of 194 percent higher -- $2,113 a year compared to $717 annually -- than those in predominantly white upper-middle-class areas, the CFA found.

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    Mitch Lipka is an award-winning consumer columnist. He was in charge of consumer news for AOL's personal finance site and was a senior editor at Consumer Reports. He was also a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, among other publications.