A new app allows you to scan a product in the supermarket aisle and learn who exactly is behind that box of cereal. More impressively, you can join user-created campaigns to boycott groups of companies who may have lobbied against a cause you believe in.
People tend to think of banks and other lenders as the main users of credit reports. But over the last several decades, credit reporting bureaus have been selling their services to a much wider range of buyers.
“Credit reports are really seeping into the soil,” said Sarah Ludwig, co-director of the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, a New York-based nonprofit. “It’s taken an outsized role in employment, housing and insurance.”
For those seeking a job, it can lead to what Chi Chi Wu, a staff lawyer at the National Consumer Law Center in Boston, calls “a bizarre, Kafkaesque experience.”
“Someone loses their job,” Ms. Wu said, “so they can’t pay their bills—and now they can’t get a job because they couldn’t pay their bills because they lost a job? It’s this Catch-22 that makes no sense.” It can also be a kind of backdoor job discrimination, Ms. Wu contends, given the numerous studies that demonstrate that those black, Latino or simply poor are more likely to have lower credit scores than those who are white and have means.
Experian, one of the big three credit reporting bureaus, states in its marketing materials, “Credit information provides insight into an applicant’s integrity and responsibility toward his or her financial obligations.”
But to Ms. Wu and others, a credit report says more about a person’s economic circumstances than his or her moral character. “Some people can go to daddy and say, ‘I can’t pay my bills, will you bail me out?’” Ms. Wu said. “And others can’t.”
Terry W. Clemans, executive director of the industry group National Consumer Reporting Association, underscores the credit bureaus’ pitch: “Does this consumer have a lifestyle that fits the job? Is this someone who I can trust?” But consumer advocates say there is little evidence of a link between a person’s credit score and trustworthiness. Even an official from TransUnion admitted in a 2010 testimony that “we don’t have any research to show any statistical correlation between what’s in somebody’s credit report and their job performance or their likelihood to commit fraud.”
A nice domestic scene with his wife and kids. Erwitt’s son Misha interviewed him about this photo:
Misha: You took a photograph in 1955 of our mother cooking dinner, her back to the camera. She has Ellen, who’s crying, in one arm and she’s reaching into the oven with the other. I’m sitting behind them in a high chair and there’s another kid standing, watching.
What’s the back story to that photo? Also, you were traveling all over the world, on the road constantly. What was it like to come home from an exotic locale to a house full of screaming kids?
Elliott: There is no story behind that photo, just a moment of the normal chaos of a family with numerous children. I loved coming back home to screaming children.
I don’t know about you, but it boggles my mind to see that women actually (as opposed to being in ads) wore heels and dresses just to cook and carry around screaming toddlers back in the day.