For African Americans, Credit is Tough No Matter Their Credit Score

FORT WORTH, Texas–([1])–For African Americans, even when they progress financially, they still
lack the economic security enjoyed by other demographic groups. A newly
released study from Elevate’s Center for the New Middle Class (CNMC)
found that even when African Americans had prime credit scores – or
scores of 700 or above – their financial wellness resembles the broader
non-prime community. For example, compared to the general non-prime
population, prime African Americans are:

  • 80% more likely to say that they live paycheck-to-paycheck
  • 2.5x more likely to overdraft on a bank account
  • 28% less likely to have $1,200 for a financial emergency
  • 50% more likely to say they have “too much debt right now”
  • Less confident they can meet long term financial goals

“Unfortunately, our research indicates that both prime and non-prime
African Americans continue to see greater financial strains as compared
to their peers,” said Jonathan Walker, executive director of the CNMC.
“From discrimination in the hiring process, earnings gaps, wealth gaps –
even a health
[2] we have observed several ways in which African Americans are
often failed by the broader financial industry. On the bright side, we
also found several areas where African Americans out perform their

For example, non-prime African Americans are better at predicting their
income: Compared to their non-prime peers, they are 29 percent less
likely to report difficulty predicting their income. Non-prime African
Americans are also more likely to say they can reach their short term
financial goals. Additionally, they’re also more likely say that they
have the skills to manage their finances well, although they are less
likely to have learned financial management from their parents.

That said, there are many facets of the broader financial ecosystem that
may be failing this population – regardless of their prime or non-prime

They are more financially fragile and community-focused. Prime
African Americans are much more likely to have experienced a drop in pay
or work hours in the past five years, compared to their prime peers.
They are also 53 percent more likely to say family or friends rely on
them. “The community aspect can mean that one small hurdle can have a
more lasting or ripple effect,” said Walker.

They view loans and revolving credit differently. Across the
board, African Americans are less likely to use a credit card and more
likely to use cash for everyday purchases. Non-prime African Americans
are more likely to use payday loans and paycheck advances and much less
likely to have bank loans, mortgages, and credit card balances than
general non-prime households.

They are seeking new products and services. African Americans are
much more likely to say they are looking for new financial services or
products. Prime African Americans are 15 percent less likely to say they
are “satisfied” with their present financial situation than wider prime,
and 38 percent more likely to say they use technology to manage finances
more than the people around them.

Non-prime African Americans in particular are planners. Non-prime
African Americans are 22 percent more likely than the general non-prime
population to feel that they have the skills and knowledge necessary to
manage their finances well. Non-prime African Americans are more likely
than the rest of the non-prime population to regularly plan for major

With greater financial insecurity than their non-prime peers, Jonathan
Walker believes “there’s ample opportunity for fintechs and traditional
institutions to meet these needs and better serve the African American

About the Research

The Center’s research represents results from a survey of 1217 U.S.
consumers (607 with prime and 610 with non-prime credit scores). Of
those, 311 self-identified as African American in ethnicity (107 with
prime credit and 204 with non-prime credit). Interviews were conducted
November 30 through December 4, 2017. For more details on the study, click

About Elevate’s Center for the New Middle Class

Elevate’s Center for the New Middle Class conducts research, engages in
dialogue, and builds cooperation to generate understanding of the
behaviors, attitudes, and challenges of America’s growing “New Middle
Class.” For more information, visit:[4]


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