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One potential predictor of a lasting relationship is something you'd never ask on a first date

couple autumn walking behind
couple autumn walking behind

(Flickr / Fabien LE JEUNE)
People with similar credit scores may be more likely to stay in a relationship.

According to psychologist Arthur Aron, the quality of a person's relationships is the single biggest predictor of human happiness.

Perhaps that's one of the reasons why researchers devote so much energy to pinpointing the factors that may indicate contentment and longevity, such as how much they laugh together, to how much sex they have every month, to the way they feel around each other.

Here's another potential factor to add to the list: credit scores.

No, really. A working paper from the Federal Reserve Board, which we originally found via the Washington Post, finds a link between having a high credit score and the likelihood of both entering into a committed relationship, and staying in one.

Additionally, it suggests a positive correlation between couples entering a relationship with similar credit scores and couples maintaining that relationship for the long run.

"Broadly speaking, our results point to a quantitatively large and significant role for credit scores in the formation and dissolution of committed relationships," write researchers Jane Dokko, Geng Li, and Jessica Hayes, who used an algorithm to analyze 15 years' worth of credit data from 12 million randomly selected Americans.

From their paper, "Credit Scores and Committed Relationships":

Three sets of empirical results support this conclusion: First, credit scores are positively correlated with the likelihood of forming a committed relationship and its subsequent stability.

Second, partners positively sort into committed relationships along the credit score dimension even after controlling for other similarities between the partners.

Third, a positive correlation notwithstanding, within-couple differences in credit scores are apparent at the start of relationships.

In the following chart from the paper, the researchers show the odds of a person forming a relationship in the next year increases along with credit score. Simply put, the analyzed data finds people with higher credit scores (scores above 800 are omitted from this chart) have greater odds of starting a relationship in the next year.

chart credit scores and committed relationships 1
chart credit scores and committed relationships 1

(Dokko, Jane, Geng Li, and Jessica Hayes (2015). “Credit Scores and Committed Relationships,” Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2015-081. Washington: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, http://dx.doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2015.081)

Another chart shows the odds of couples who do form relationships separating in the first six years of their relationship. A higher credit score is associated with a lesser likelihood that a couple will separate.

chart credit scores and committed relationships 2
chart credit scores and committed relationships 2

(Dokko, Jane, Geng Li, and Jessica Hayes (2015). “Credit Scores and Committed Relationships,” Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2015-081. Washington: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, http://dx.doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2015.081.)

The researchers also find that couples' credit scores tend to converge over the years — which makes sense, if you consider that a household probably starts to use joint accounts and credit cards, and holds equal responsibility for major loans.

"The initial match quality in credit scores is highly predictive of subsequent separations even when controlling for other factors, such as couples' use of credit and the occurrence of financial distress," they write.

Translation: Couples who come to a relationship with vastly different credit scores may be more likely to separate.

Plus, the researchers also draw a parallel between high credit scores and trustworthiness, writing that "we find that survey-based measures of trustworthiness are also associated with relationship outcomes, which implies that differentials in credit scores may also reflect mismatch in couples' trustworthiness."

Credit scores — a representation of your credit history through a three-digit number between 301 and 850 — have long been used as an indication of trustworthiness by lenders, who use the number as a way to help predict how you'll treat their credit line based on your financial history. The higher the number, the more likely lenders are to trust you with a major loan such as a mortgage.

While no one with any tact expects you to share your score with a first date, or list it on your online dating profile, you can get yours for free, as often as you'd like, from the three credit bureaus that issue them from sites such as Credit.com, CreditKarma, and CreditSesame.

The free score might not be exactly what a lender sees when they pull it up, but it should be close enough to know whether you're in a strong position to request loans in the future.

Or to gauge compatibility with your date.

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