CreditCards.com breaks it down by average state income and credit score.

By Maggie Seaver
November 20, 2019

You might expect U.S. states with the highest median incomes to also have the highest resident credit scores, but that’s not necessarily the case, according to new research from CreditCards.com. After comparing the median annual household income and average credit score for every state (plus Washington D.C.), the study found that some of the highest-earning states were unexpectedly lagging behind in the credit score department. 

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Case in point, South Dakota’s median household income may be $56,274, but the state’s average credit score is 727, which is the second highest in the country, behind Montana. That means South Dakotans can proudly take cake for being the most fiscally responsible, despite earning the 33rd highest average income out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They may make less on average, but they’re better at handling their earnings and debt than residents of other states. 

Speaking of D.C., at $85,203, the median household income in the nation’s capital is at the top of the pack, however, its average credit score of 703 makes it around the 32nd most financially responsible “state.” Maryland, which ranked second to last on the money management hierarchy, shows a similar trend of having a high average income and low credit score. On the other hand, Texas, coming in at third to last, shows a different type of issue: a so-so median income ($60,629) coupled with a low average credit score (680).

Since credit score is based on factors such as payment history, how much one owes, and the length of credit history, it makes sense for South Dakota to reign supreme while D.C. falls behind: South Dakota is one of the “three states with the lowest delinquent-to-total accounts ratios, according to Experian,” says the CreditCards.com analysis. The five best states at managing money—South Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin, Maine, Vermont—all fall toward the bottom half of total debt per capita. According to the research, “The per capita debt figure [in South Dakota] is 26 percent lower than [its] median income.... [while D.C.’s total per capita debt ($86,730) is the nation’s highest and eclipses its median household income.”

Finally, in terms of length of credit history, both Maine and Vermont have the oldest median age in the U.S., giving them both a leg up in this credit score category. On the other hand, Alaska, California, Texas, and D.C. (four of the five least financially responsible states), have some of the youngest median ages in the country.

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