Minority neighborhoods in California was part of the focus of an April ProPublica story on car insurance.
The investigative news outlet found that major car insurance companies charge people living in California zip codes with a mostly minority population more for car insurance than those who live in "whiter neighborhoods."
U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove) wasn't surprised by the findings. He was the state's Insurance Commissioner from 1991-95 and again from 2003-07.
"The insurance companies are looking for ways to sell policies to people they believe are not likely to have accidents, so they exclude broad segments of the community," said Garamendi. "And almost always, it's the minority community."
He recalled driving down streets in minority neighborhoods as Insurance Commissioner and not seeing signs advertising car insurance.
"We'd fine companies," he said.
James Lynch, chief actuary at the Insurance Information Institute, said there are multiple reasons why car insurance costs more in one area as opposed to another.
For example, a particular neighborhood could have a higher density of vehicles, which could mean a higher likelihood of an accident.
"Insurance companies don’t collect information on race, it would just be disgusting behavior anyway," Lynch said.
The state's Department of Insurance said ProPublica's study relies on industry averages to compare car insurance premiums.
"In California, insurers' premium rates are not based on industry averages -- instead they are based on actual loss experience, which varies by carrier," the state's Department of Insurance said in a statement.
But, ProPublica notes that it is unlikely that the difference between what car insurance companies lose in a specific zip code compared to the average "would result in a consistent pattern of higher prices for minority neighborhoods."
So how does your zip code compare? Enter it in ProPublica's system here.
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