The Way Credit Keeps Black People Unemployed Will Blow Your Mind

Credit Score/Nick Youngson/Creative Commons/CC-SA-3.0


Credit rules everything around us. Obtaining a car, house, apartment, or a loan all starts with having good credit. And in some cases, getting a job depends on your credit as well.

That sounds nonsensical, right? Because it is.

Credit checks are sometimes used as a criterion for securing a job. For many Black folks, this presents a problem because we often don’t have the best credit. Some experts even point to credit checks as a reason for chronic unemployment among Black people.

New America Foundation’s Hannah Emple says the rise in credit checks for jobs presents a race-neutral façade, calling it “operationalizing racial discrimination.” In other words, using systems and policies that perpetuate racism.

In 2012, Demos National Survey on Credit Card Debt examined low and middle-income households. The survey showed that credit checks keep one out of ten workers unemployed.

That rate is much higher for Black workers.

In fact only a quarter of Black households have scores over 700 and only 44 percent would say they have good credit.

While the Fair Credit Reporting Act does permit employer credit check, Demos says it’s not designed to be a screening tool.

The Great Recession of 2008 hit Black people hardest, and we are still recovering from it. How can we repay our debts if we can’t get a job?

Aunty Maxine came to try to save the day.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) introduced the Fair Credit Reporting Improvement Act of 2014. The bill’s goal was to reduce derogatory marks from seven to four years and remove settled debts, giving people a better chance to improve their credit.

However, bills like this are hard to move through Congress. Equifax and Experian spent a combined $4.5 million in campaign donations and lobbying against the bill.

If you’re looking to raise your credit score, check out this book by Constance Carter, Keeping Score: What You Need To Know To Make Your Credit Score Grow.

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