Footnotes (318)



Ending Jim Crow Life Insurance Rates

Mary L. Heen

University of Richmond - School of Law

October 15, 2009

Northwestern Journal of Law & Social Policy, Vol. 4, p. 360, 2009

This article tells the story of the rise and fall of explicit race-based pricing practices as American life insurance companies responded to changes in the social, economic, and legal status of former slaves and their descendants. The role of law in that story, from the Civil War to the beginning of this century, illustrates the complex interaction between civil rights reform and private commercial markets. Despite early laws prohibiting race-based life insurance rates, they persisted in various forms for over a century due to the strength of the underlying racial ideologies, the rhetorical power of actuarial language, and the structure and regulation of insurance markets. Life insurance companies reinforced prevailing American assumptions about race by adopting explicit race-based pricing categories after Reconstruction, and later, by prospectively abandoning them beginning after World War II. Earlier this century, regulatory investigations and litigation under post-Civil War federal civil rights statutes brought relief to those harmed by the continuing effects of dual rate structures in race-segmented markets. Civil rights law thus served primarily as prologue, by provoking company adaptation, and as epilogue, by providing retrospective relief, to the central story of that transformation.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 40

Keywords: civil rights law, race discrimination, life insurance pricing, mortality rates, scientific racism, economic history

JEL Classification: N00, J71, J78

Open PDF in Browser Download This Paper

Date posted: October 19, 2009 ; Last revised: October 22, 2009

Suggested Citation

Heen, Mary L., Ending Jim Crow Life Insurance Rates (October 15, 2009). Northwestern Journal of Law & Social Policy, Vol. 4, p. 360, 2009 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1491264

Contact Information

Mary L. Heen (Contact Author)
University of Richmond - School of Law ( email )
28 Westhampton Way
Richmond, VA 23173
United States
804-289-8528 (Phone)
804-289-8683 (Fax)
Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 1,219
Downloads: 151
Download Rank: 154,612
Footnotes:  318