Empirical Evidence on the Use of Credit Scoring for Predicting Insurance Losses with Psycho-social and Biochemical Explanations
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An important development in personal lines of insurance in the United States is the use of credit history data for insurance risk classification to predict losses. This research presents the results of collaboration with industry conducted by a university at the request of its state legislature. The purpose was to see the viability and validity of the use of credit scoring to predict insurance losses given its controversial nature and criticism as redundant of other predictive variables currently used. Working with industry and government, this study analyzed more than 175,000 policyholders’ information for the relationship between credit score and claims. Credit scores were significantly related to incurred losses, evidencing both statistical and practical significance. We investigate whether the revealed relationship between credit score and incurred losses was explainable by overlap with existing underwriting variables or whether the credit score adds new information about losses not contained in existing underwriting variables. The results show that credit scores contain significant information not already incorporated into other traditional rating variables (e.g., age, sex, driving history). We discuss how sensation seeking and self-control theory provide a partial explanation of why credit scoring works (the psycho-social perspective). This article also presents an overview of biological and chemical correlates of risk taking that helps explain why knowing risk-taking behavior in one realm (e.g., risky financial behavior and poor credit history) transits to predicting risk-taking behavior in other realms (e.g., automobile insurance incurred losses). Additional research is needed to advance new nontraditional loss prediction variables from social media consumer information to using information provided by technological advances. The evolving and dynamic nature of the insurance marketplace makes it imperative that professionals continue to evolve predictive variables and for academics to assist with understanding the whys of the relationships through theory development.