The Caution of Credit Scores: They May Do More Harm than Good (IO Psychology)

Topic(s): Uncategorized

Publication: International Journal of Selection and Assessment (JUN 2012)
Article: Demographic Variables and Credit Scores: An Empirical Study of a Controversial Selection Tool
Authors: Jeremy B. Bernerth
Reviewed By: Thaddeus Rada

IO psychologists and human resources practitioners who are frequent visitors of I/O at Work may recall a recent post that reviewed an article examining the use of social networking sites (SNWs) as a screening and selection tool. This article concluded that although they may at times contribute useful information, the risks associated with using SNWs in the hiring process currently outweigh the benefits.

However, the use of SNWs is not the only controversial selection tool that has attracted research attention in recent years. The current review focuses on another of these controversial selection tools: credit scores (cue scary organ music).

In a recent paper in the International Journal of Selection and Assessment, Jeremy Bernerth examined the relationship between credit scores and a number of important demographic variables. Many of these variables, such as minority status and marital status, are particularly important, given their protected status by the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Of the five demographic variables that Bernerth examined, at least four of them appear to be important predictors of credit scores, suggesting that there may be differences in credit scores based on an individual’s membership in a wide array of demographic groups. In particular, Bernerth found that minority individuals tend to have credit scores that are substantially lower than nonminority individuals; thus, the use of credit scores may lead to adverse impact.

Given these findings, it appears that hiring managers and other human resources personnel should use great caution (and ideally avoid) using credit scores as a selection tool at the present time. Certainly, research on the use of credit scores, including the identification of ways in which credit scores may be used more “safely,” is likely to continue. As such, practitioners should “stay tuned” for additional research on credit scores, and caution against organizations’ use of credit scores for the time being.

Bernerth, J. B. (2012). Demographic variables and credit scores: An empirical study of a controversial selection tool. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 20, 242-246.

human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management



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