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What's Your Credits Score? How Do Credit Scores Affect the Black Community?

According to the University of California, Berkeley Study, which analyzed 7 million 30-year mortgages, Black and Hispanic applicants were charged higher interest rates and experienced higher denial rates compared to white applicants with similar credit profiles. Several studies have shown that Black and Brown applicants face higher denial rates for loans compared to white applicants, even when they have similar credit profiles.

These studies collectively underscore the persistent racial disparities in the lending industry. They highlight the need for continuous regulatory oversight and the implementation of fair lending practices to ensure all consumers have equal access to credit. Historically, discriminatory practices such as redlining (the practice of denying services, typically financial, to residents of specific areas based on race) have prevented many Black families from obtaining mortgages and building wealth through homeownership.

While systemic challenges exist, taking proactive steps to improve financial health, seeking out supportive resources, and staying informed about your rights can significantly enhance your chances of securing loans for homeownership and business ventures. Empowering ourselves with knowledge and utilizing available resources can help us overcome barriers and achieve financial goals.

Agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and legislative initiatives such as the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) are pivotal in addressing and reducing discriminatory lending practices. However, effective enforcement and oversight are crucial to ensuring these measures are successful. The ECOA makes it illegal for creditors to discriminate against applicants based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or because an applicant receives public assistance. The CFPB, along with other regulatory agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), enforces the ECOA. Violations can result in penalties, damages, and corrective actions.

Several consumer protection measures and financial literacy programs can serve as models for effectively addressing credit card debt and promoting economic well-being.

Financial Literacy Programs at our disposal is a U.S. government website offering various resources and tools to help consumers make informed financial decisions. It covers budgeting, credit management, saving, and retirement planning. Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy is a coalition of organizations working to improve youth financial literacy. It provides resources and promotes standards for financial education in schools.

National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) Provides free, high-quality financial education materials and programs for all life stages, including budgeting, debt management, and retirement planning. The Financial Literacy and Education Commission (FLEC) is A U.S. Treasury-led commission that coordinates the efforts of federal agencies to promote financial literacy. It develops national strategies and supports educational initiatives.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Resources offers tools like "Ask CFPB," which provides answers to common financial questions, and the "Money as You Grow" program, which helps parents teach children about money management. FDIC Money Smart Program offers a comprehensive financial education curriculum to help individuals enhance their financial skills and create positive banking relationships. It offers modules for different age groups and life stages. Operation HOPE  provides financial dignity and economic empowerment programs to underserved communities. It focuses on managing credit and money, small business development, and counseling homeownership.

Practical Strategies to Improve Credit Score and DTI Ratio

 The DTI ratio is the percentage of your gross monthly income that goes towards paying your monthly debt payments. Focus on reducing existing debt to lower your DTI ratio and improve your credit utilization ratio. Pay off high-interest debts first to ease the financial burden. Ensure all your bills and loan payments are made on time. Payment history is the most significant factor in your credit score. Keep your credit card balances low relative to your credit limit. Aim to use less than 30% of your available credit.

Increasing your income can improve your DTI ratio. This could involve seeking a higher-paying job, asking for a raise, or finding additional income sources. Only open new credit accounts when necessary. Each hard inquiry can temporarily lower your credit score.

Review your credit report regularly for errors and dispute any inaccuracies that may negatively affect your score. If you have a short credit history, consider strategies like becoming an authorized user on a family member's credit card or taking out a small, manageable loan.

Alternative Ways to Improve Credit

Use a secured credit card to build credit. Ensure you make timely payments and keep the balance low. Some banks and credit unions offer credit builder loans specifically designed to help improve your credit score. If you have multiple high-interest debts, consider consolidating them into a single loan with a lower interest rate. This can simplify payments and lower your overall monthly debt payments.

Financial education is a powerful tool in combating unfair treatment from predatory lenders, banks, and credit card companies. By understanding economic principles, consumers can make informed decisions, protect themselves from exploitation, and build a secure financial future. Engaging in continuous learning and utilizing available resources will enhance financial literacy and empower individuals to navigate the economic landscape confidently.


  • Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Study (1992): Munnell, A. H., Tootell, G. M. B., Browne, L. E., & McEneaney, J. (1996). Mortgage Lending in Boston: Interpreting HMDA Data. American Economic Review, 86(1), 25-53.

  • CFPB Report (2014): Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (2014). Fair Lending Report of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Retrieved from CFPB website.

  • Urban Institute Study (2018): Urban Institute. (2018). 2018 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act Data Reveal Disparities in Mortgage Lending. Retrieved from Urban Institute website.

  • NBER Study (2019): Bartlett, R., Morse, A., Stanton, R., & Wallace, N. (2019). Consumer-Lending Discrimination in the FinTech Era. National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from NBER website.

  • UC Berkeley Study (2021): Bartlett, R., Morse, A., Stanton, R., & Wallace, N. (2021). Algorithmic Discrimination in Mortgage Lending. University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved from UC Berkeley website.

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