Even before the Equifax breach, the integrity of credit reports was murky at best. A Federal Trade Commission report found that as many as one in five consumers had a credit error from one of the top reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). But the fundamental problem isn’t data integrity—it’s economic justice. According to a survey by the think tank Demos, declining credit was associated more with misfortunes and unforeseeable crises than with a lack of financial responsibility. Suffering an unexpected bout of unemployment or a medical bankruptcy, living with a psychological disability, or being a survivor of intimate-partner abuse can all mar your credit—as can being a person of color (in surveys, whites are more than twice as likely to describe their credit as “excellent”). The factors driving a poor credit rating vary, but they too often include circumstances that should never be a pretext for judging your character or job qualifications.
Despite the lack of evidence showing that employability can be judged by credit history, about one in seven people with poor credit recalled being “advised that they were not being hired because of their credit,” and about 10 percent of the unemployed said their credit had excluded them from a job, according to Demos’s survey research.