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Bruce Carruthers

New book

Credit by numbers? The quantification of creditworthiness

August 31, 2023

Do you know what a FICO score is, or the value of your own score?

Not everyone does, even though FICO scores are incredibly fateful for individuals and their households. Why? Because today FICO scores govern access to credit, and credit is usually needed to make big purchases (for example, financing a new car, or getting a mortgage to buy a home), to deal with short-term emergency expenses (like surprise medical bills), or to maintain consumption when household income gets interrupted because someone lost their job.

A high score means easier credit, while a low score means expensive credit (higher interest rates) or even no credit at all. That these scores play such a central role should come as no surprise because, in fact, FICO scores were designed to govern access to consumer credit, on a mass scale. But now they are used in other contexts as well, and so have become even more consequential.

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