Monday, February 20, 2023

Southerners Have Poor Credit & Poor Health

I've never given a Tweet a standing ovation, but last week I did nearly stand-up and applaud this Hannah Fry's witty response to a British MP.  

However, even though correlation does not imply causation, causal analysis can still try to establish correlation by eliminating the possibility of common and alternative causes. For example in the United States the correlation between poor health and poor credit scores in the South may imply that health debt causes poor credit.

The Washington Post recently discovered that people in the South have poor credit scores and decided to find out why. An academic study of credit scores in the United States revealed that people in the South appear on average to have lower credit scores than people who live elsewhere in the United States.

This map of average credit scores in Why Does the South Have Such Ugly Credit Scores? reveals a huge band of poor credit all the way across the South of the United States. A series of other maps in the article point to a correlation between medical debt, chronic health problems and health insurance with this trend for low credit scores in the South.

The implication arrived at by the Post from these correlations is that people in the South have the biggest medical debts and it is this debt which leads to their poor credit scores. The reason for this medical debt is implied from the poor health in the South (people "in the South are substantially more likely to suffer from four or more chronic conditions"), the fact that many Southern states didn't expand Medicaid, and the fact that health insurance lags in the South.

The Washington Post has tried to eliminate alternative causes for these poor credit scores. For example it looked for correlations between race and poverty with the poor average credit card ratings in the South. What the Post found however was that poor credit in the South seems to effect all races and within "every income bracket, the typical Southerner has a lower credit score than someone who lives in the Northeast, Midwest or West."

By eliminating alternative causes for lower credit scores the Post has therefore strengthened its case for inferring that medical debt in the South is a major cause of the South's 'ugly' credit scores.

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