Average credit scores by gender
The average credit scores of men and women in the United States were just one point apart when credit reporting agency Experian released a major analysis of the issue in 2020. And a year later, updated data from Experian shows essentially identical average ratings between the sexes. Additionally, research reveals that men’s and women’s credit card balances are so close that they are statistically the same. Here’s how the numbers break down, along with a history.
Key points to remember
- The Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 prohibited several common practices that served to restrict women’s access to credit and their ability to be financially independent.
- Today, the average credit score of both genders is identical.
- Men and women have essentially the same level of credit card debt.
- Men have more debt than women overall, and in all categories except student loans.
How the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 changed things
It may be hard to believe that as recently as the 1970s, women were often not allowed to take out a loan or apply for credit without a male co-signer. And if they bought a house, they were generally required to put down a larger down payment than male applicants with similar credit histories.
The Equal Credit Opportunity Act 1974 was a major step in ending gender discrimination in access to credit. And although the United States still suffers from gender-based wage gaps, the availability and use of credit between women and men is largely aligned today.
That’s not to say there aren’t differences in how men and women use debt and credit. Indeed, men are generally more indebted than women, including in almost all categories of indebtedness. But women have more student debt and more credit cards.
|Average debt and credit measures by gender|
|Average credit score||705||704*||-1*|
|Total debt balances||$337,957||$310,004||– $27,953|
|Mortgage debt||$211,034||$192,368||– $18,666|
|HELOC debt||$47,017||$42,746||– $4,271|
|Car loan debt||$20,645||$17,747||– $2,898|
|Student loan debt||$35,188||$36,131||+$943|
|Personal loan debt||$17,716||$14,780||– $2,936|
|Credit card debt||$6,357||$6,232||-$125|
|Number of credit cards||3.6||4.5||+0.9|
How Women’s Credit and Debt Compare to Men’s
The current parity between the average credit score of men and women is not entirely new. Six years ago, the numbers were just as close, and both averages have increased by 10 points since the second quarter of 2015. In modern credit scoring models, no gender consideration is taken into account in the scores.
The way men and women accumulate debt, however, shows some differences. Overall, men have about 9% more debt on average than women: about $338,000 in total debt balance versus $310,000 for women. This difference stems from the fact that they hold more debt than women in all but one debt category. Men carry about 10% more mortgage and HELOC debt, 16% more car loan debt and, most strikingly, 20% more personal loan debt.
For their part, women hold on average a little more student debt. But the increase over men’s student loan balances is less than 3%. Women also tend to have more credit cards, with an average of 4.5 cards compared to an average of 3.6 cards for men.
On credit card balances, the gender difference is only $125. At only 2%, this difference is not considered statistically significant.
The 1974 legislative changes provided greater access to credit for American women, allowing them to take out loans and credit cards without depending on male co-signers, or being unfairly penalized when taking out a home loan. In the years that followed, women gained wide access to credit and debt equity, achieving average credit scores identical to those of men.
The composition of debt differs between genders, with men taking on more debt for housing, cars and luxury items, while women as a group have taken on slightly more student debt. But although men’s average total debt balance is about 10% higher than women’s total debt, identical average credit scores imply equally responsible credit management for all genders.
Experian is one of the top three credit reporting agencies in the United States, and its 2020 Analysis of Debt and Credit Metrics by Gender is based on aggregate data collected from the millions of credit reports at the consumption it tracks.