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Credit scores: Their history and the bias baked in

Pexels/Natasha Chebanoo

Americans rely on credit. Their credit scores are key to accessing loans and financial mobility.

According to the Princeton sociologist Frederick Wherry writing in the Boston Globe, our modern credit score system came out of a federal law in 1970 aimed to have facts guide credit decisions rather than a system susceptible to human bias. However, William Fair, who became the namesake for the FICO credit system, told Congress he doesn’t believe race, gender or other social categories should be barred from deciding creditworthiness.

Today, we have a system many argue has kept women and people of color down. About half of Black adults have no credit or a credit score under 640. Meanwhile, a study from Sage Journals showed a woman with a bad credit report was less likely to be called back for a job interview compared to a man in the same situation. Education can also play a role in who is more likely to have better credit.

On the next Charlotte Talks, we discuss why credit scores exist, whether they still should, and what factors race, gender and education play.

GUESTS:

Ted Rossman, Bankrate senior industry analyst specializing in credit cards and credit scores
Carly Urban, professor of economics at Montana State University
Frederick Wherry, professor of sociology at Princeton University and director of the Debt Collection Lab

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Gabe Altieri is a Senior Producer for Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Prior to joining WFAE in 2022, he worked for WSKG Public Media in Binghamton, New York.