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Source: Experian; Note: Data is based on a statistically relevant sample of Experian's consumer credit database, scores range from 300–850; Chart: Axios Visuals

An unexpected pandemic side effect has legs: Average credit scores are still ticking up — to the highest in 13 years, new data from credit-reporting firm Experian shows.

Why it matters: America saw the worst recession on record (albeit the shortest). But stay-at-home orders that limited what consumers could spend on paired with stimulus funds that went toward paying down debt helped lift the average credit score — a phenomenon that cut across all generations.

Details: The pandemic hasn't interrupted the yearslong march higher for the average credit score, according to Experian’s 2021 State of Credit report, which covers Q2.

  • The median score rose 10 points to 707.
  • "[S]core improvements were supported by fewer missed payments, lower credit utilization rates and reduced card balances," the company said in a release.

Details: Average utilization rates fell 1 percentage point to 25%, after declining 5 percentage points in 2020.

  • Average card balances fell for every generation except Gen Z, which saw balances jump by $115 year over year (they also saw the biggest dropoff in delinquency rates for bills 90+ days past due)

But, but, but: The improvements don’t tell the whole story. Millions (some who may not have credit histories) faced financial hardship — and still are.

  • One example: Over one-fourth of Americans say they are in households that have difficulty paying for usual household expenses, according to the latest Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey.
  • Experian didn't break out credit scores by demographics in the report.

The big picture: Pandemic-era programs that played a role in shoring up finances in the past year have dried up.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Updated Sep 17, 2021 - Economy & Business

America fought the pandemic economy — and won

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The U.S. economy is emerging from the pandemic with more well-paying jobs for those who want them, less hunger, less poverty, higher wages, less inequality, and more wealth for everyday Americans.

Why it matters: None of these outcomes were expected when the pandemic began. All of them are the result of massive government programs.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
44 mins ago - Energy & Environment

China vows end to building coal-fired power plants abroad

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Mary Altaffer - Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping told the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday that his country "will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad" and plans to boost support for clean energy in developing nations.

Why it matters: The pledge, if maintained, would mark a breakthrough in efforts to transition global power away from the most carbon-emitting fuel.

House Democrats strip Iron Dome money from government funding bill

Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Democrats on Tuesday stripped $1 billion for Israel's Iron Dome defense system from its short-term government funding bill after backlash from progressives, people familiar with the decision tell Axios.

Why it matters: There has never a situation where military aid for Israel was held up because of objections from members of Congress. While the funding will get a vote in its current defense bill, the clash underscores the deep divisions within the Democratic party over Israel.

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