Law and Contemporary Problems
Credit scoring is central to people’s financial growth and prosperity or financial decline and stagnation. People with a good credit score and accompanying credit report can buy opportunities to advance economically. The benefits they reap from their attractiveness to lenders and employers helps feed their future success. In contrast, people with a fair or poor credit score become stuck in cycle of high interest rates and costly loan terms, large required down payments, and denied applications for rentals, cell phone plans, and employment. Employers, service providers, lenders, and alternative financial service providers have begun to use alternative credit scoring models, which rely on data not typically tracked by the three major credit bureaus, such as income, rental history, and subscription services. Although touted as beneficial, the use of this alternative data does not necessarily make people more attractive because they perform below-average on many of the inputs. For instance, they earn lower salaries and have imperfect rental histories. Ultimately, most of the people with fair and poor scores, however calculated, find it nearly impossible to erase the blemishes that feed those scores. This essay, written as part of Two Americas symposium, details how the increasing reliance on credit scores has made this type of scoring integral to people’s access to the gates of economic citizenship. The increasing reliance on credit scoring has helped perpetuate and fuel household economic inequality. The essay concludes with a proposal for how to support people who lack the credit history or family assistance often needed to succeed in a financial world that depends on scoring.
Duke University School of Law
credit report, credit scoring, renting, employment, consumer credit, racial disparities, alternative data, poverty, socio-economic class
Pamela Foohey & Sara S. Greene,
Credit Scoring Duality,
Law & Contemp. Probs.