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Keeping (Credit) Score: Women Borrow Better Than Men

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When it comes to managing credit, American women have a slight edge over men, according to a study of credit reports by the credit report agency Experian.

Experian looked at 750,000 credit reports, a sample of what it collected nationwide, and found that while women earn 23 percent less than men, they know how to handle debt.

"When you start from there, you recognize that women have less money to spend," says Michele Raneri, Experian's vice president of analytics. "And their delinquencies are less."

When it comes to credit scores, women are in front by a tiny margin. Women averaged a credit score of 675 compared to the male average of 674, according to Experian's data. Reuters got a sneak peak of the study, which will be released on Wednesday.

"In terms of having a stereotype, they may spend and shop, but women also pay their bills well," Raneri says. "They are doing more with less."

Experian found that men have 4.3 percent more debt than women. Men have a 2 percent higher credit utilization rate along with mortgage loans that are 4.9 percent higher. More men also hold mortgages that are least 60 days past due.

The average man in the study's sample carried $26,227 in debt compared to $25,095 for women. That figure includes consumer debt such as credit cards and auto loans, for example, but excludes mortgage debt.

The average mortgage held by a man is $187,245 compared to $178,140 for a woman. About 72 percent of all mortgages are held jointly, Experian found, so the analysis looked at the other 28 percent (just over half of them are held by men).

No place else in the country is close to the District of Columbia when it comes to women-held mortgages. In Washington, D.C., 47 percent of all mortgages are held individually, with 27 percent held by women - one-third more than the number of male-only mortgages. The next closest is Georgia, where 17 percent of all mortgages are held by women.

Women are least likely to be the sole mortgage holders in Idaho, Montana and North Dakota. In each of those states, women only represent 8 percent of the outstanding mortgage loans.

The biggest gap in mortgage debt is in Connecticut, Experian found. The average mortgage held by a male there is $229,510 compared to the average $175,276 held by a female.

Coincidentally, men in Connecticut are also more likely to make late payments on mortgages and have more non-mortgage debt.

Experian also looked at the Miami area, where both women and men are late on their mortgage payments about 13 percent of the time. But for those same women, the average debt is about 7 percent lower than the men, which Experian says is another example that women are handling their debts better.

The findings should serve to bolster the argument that women are perfectly capable of managing their finances, says money management expert Liz Weston, columnist and author of "Deal with Your Debt."

"I like any study that counters the notion that women are airheads about money," Weston says. "I don't think women are any more likely to be spendthrifts, for example, or any less likely to be savers."

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