Next time you’re pondering the odds that you and your main squeeze will stay together forever, don’t just rely on the opinion of friends. Look at your credit scores.
A new working paper (PDF) published by the US Federal Reserve Board finds that the higher your credit score, the higher your chances of a lasting relationship.
A trio of economists parsed data from the Fed’s consumer credit panel to identify the credit scores of couples in committed relationships. People tend to form committed relationships with people whose credit scores are in the same range, the study found. And couples with high credit scores tend to stay together longer.
The credit scores were measured by Equifax, and indicate individuals’ creditworthiness on a scale from 280 to 850. The economists were able to track the relationships and credit scores on a quarterly basis. They identified “committed relationships” by noticing when two individuals who previously had not shared addresses began to do so, and continued living together for at least a year. The researchers said they applied a few other unspecified restrictions to ensure that most of the couples identified were indeed committed partners—though they note that they couldn’t distinguish between married and non-married or ‘cohabiting’ ones, nor did they much care about this distinction.
“We are interested in the implications of credit scores and the associated match quality in a general swathe of committed relationships, not just the couples who are legally married,” the researchers wrote, adding that cohabiting couples increasingly “share many household economic and financial responsibilities in a way similar to married couples.”
For every additional 100 points or so in a couple’s average credit score at the beginning of their relationship, their odds of separating during the second year of the relationship drop by 30%, the researchers found. Also, if the difference between a couple’s individual credit scores is greater than 66 points at the start of the relationship, the couple is 24% more likely to split up within the second, third, or fourth year of the relationship. The study also noted that a pair’s credit scores are likely to converge slightly over the course of a relationship.
The link between credit scores and relationship longevity probably has to do with creditworthiness being a proxy for “an individual’s general trustworthiness and commitment to non-debt obligations,” the study notes. Those characteristics affect all sorts of things involved in sharing a household—who takes out the trash, for example, and who’s more likely to forget a birthday or anniversary.
Interviews of more than 50 people by the New York Times in 2012 revealed similar views; some had discussed credit scores on first dates, and others had found dates on websites such as datemycreditscore.com. And a Citigroup survey conducted in 2015 found that 78% of Americans would rather have a financially-savvy partner than a physically attractive one.