New research shows that Michigan insurance companies charge working class folks significantly more for auto insurance than white collar professionals, based on factors such as their occupation and their level of education.

That’s the conclusion of a study by California insurance researcher Douglas Heller, who found that, all other things being equal, if an insurance policyholder in Michigan is unemployed or rents his home rather than owning it, those factors drive up rates. And it’s all legal.

Chad Livengood of Crain’s Detroit Business has a terrific piece that explains these disparities in insurance rates that have no correlation to a motorist’s driving record or history of insurance claims.

Livengood did some checking with insurers by comparing the rates for two hypothetical 30-year-old females, each with a perfect driving record and ownership of a Ford Fusion.  One rents a home in a middle class Detroit neighborhood. The other owns a home on the other side of Eight Mile Road in St. Clair Shores.

If the Detroit resident was unemployed, relied on Medicaid for health insurance, and had no college degree, she would pay 141 percent more to insure her car – nearly $500 a month – than the identical woman in St. Clair Shores who had a white collar job, with benefits, thanks to her bachelor’s degree.

Even rates quoted for the identical St. Clair Shores address are different based on education. If the woman is unemployed but has a bachelor’s degree, she pays $26 less per month than the jobless woman without a degree.