Do Millennials Have Higher Credit Scores in Urban or Rural Areas?

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Student loans and other debts continue to take their toll on millennials' finances, but this generation is also starting to show improvement in credit scores.

Millennial Americans—ages 24 to 39—have an average FICO® Score of 668, according to Experian data. That score has grown 25 points since 2012 (as far back as our view of this generation goes), representing the biggest increase of any generation over that time period. But those in the most diverse generation in history obviously aren't all alike, and neither are their credit scores.

As part of our ongoing look at credit scores in the U.S., Experian analyzed millennials' credit in 10 large metro areas and compared them with millennials in non-metro areas of the state to see whether there was any connection between where millennials live and their credit score.

It turns out that millennials in urban areas have, on average, higher credit scores than their peers in more rural areas in the same state. In nearly all of the 10 states and metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) we compared, the scores of urban millennials bested the scores of millennials who didn't live in a major city.

All of the following data is specific to millennials in MSAs and non-MSA (rural) areas from the second quarter (Q2) of 2019. We looked at 10 states throughout the country and compared the data on millennials who live in the state's largest MSA against those who don't live in major metro areas. Some large MSAs, notably New York City, have been excluded from this analysis due to measuring and comparison restrictions posed by the MSA's geography.

Here's a closer look at how urban and rural millennials' credit scores, average household income and average total debt compare.

Average FICO® ScoreAverage household incomeAverage total debt
Los Angeles Metropolitan*677$80,706$74,834
Rural California664$63,870$69,985

*Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana metro area

Average FICO® ScoreAverage household incomeAverage total debt
Dallas Metropolitan*657$79,846$76,760
Rural Texas625$62,139$58,365

*Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metro area

Average FICO® ScoreAverage household incomeAverage total debt
Miami Metropolitan*655$68,563$59,571
Rural Florida630$58,340$52,772

*Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach metro area

Average FICO® ScoreAverage household incomeAverage total debt
Atlanta Metropolitan*656$75,991$75,965
Rural Georgia621$55,759$52,935

*Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta metro area

Average FICO® ScoreAverage household incomeAverage total debt
Phoenix Metropolitan*657$71,637$84,975
Rural Arizona626$56,035$56,893

*Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta metro area

Average FICO® ScoreAverage household incomeAverage total debt
Seattle Metropolitan*702$92,261$116,434
Rural Washington676$64,619$77,065

*Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area

Average FICO® ScoreAverage household incomeAverage total debt
Detroit Metropolitan*664$74,868$67,145
Rural Michigan659$60,970$61,452

*Detroit-Warren-Livonia metro area

Average FICO® ScoreAverage household incomeAverage total debt
Denver Metropolitan*689$83,955$117,801
Rural Colorado677$68,731$85,270

*Denver-Aurora metro area

Average FICO® ScoreAverage household incomeAverage total debt
Baltimore Metropolitan*674$91,601$102,396
Rural Maryland669$78,626$95,890

*Baltimore-Towson metro area

Average FICO® ScoreAverage household incomeAverage total debt
Las Vegas Metropolitan*646$68,071$73,947
Rural Nevada655$76,572$90,680

*Las Vegas-Paradise metro area

Millennials in Urban Areas Have Higher Credit Scores

The correlation between urban dwellers and higher credit scores held true in almost all cities we looked at, no matter the region of the country, the economic health of the city, or the cost of living there. Even the urban areas with some of the lowest credit scores on this list (Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach and Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta) had a higher average FICO® Score than their respective states rural areas.

Urban Millennials Make More Money and Have Higher Debt

In every one of the MSAs included in our analysis except Las Vegas, the average household income for millennials in cities was higher than the household income for their peers in non-urban areas. Millennials in cities also tended to have higher overall debt loans but, as their credit scores showed, seem to be managing that debt.

But Urban Millennials Still Don't Best the Overall Average Credit Score

While millennials in cities have higher credit scores than their peers in non-urban areas, their scores remain lower than the all-generation averages per state and nationally. Even with recent increases, millennials' average FICO® Score is 25 points lower than the average 703 score across the country.

More Research Is Needed

While our analysis shows that millennials in urban areas do have higher credit scores, it doesn't conclusively explain the reason for the disparity. The answer may lie in the lifestyle differences between urban millennials and their rural peers, which could help to explain why the two groups use credit in different ways. Those in urban areas, for example, may be more likely to rent (rather than own their home) or not to own a car, but they also tend to earn more money and have higher overall debt loads.

Methodology: The analysis results provided are based on an Experian-created statistically relevant aggregate sampling of our consumer credit database that may include use of the FICO® Score 8 version. Different sampling parameters may generate different findings compared with other similar analysis. Analyzed credit data did not contain personal identification information. Metro areas group counties and cities into specific geographic areas for population censuses and compilations of related statistical data.

FICO® is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the U.S. and other countries.