Restoring Credit

Malte Ziewitz, Principal Investigator
mcz35 [at]

Ranjit Singh, Co-Investigator
rps244 [at]

'Drive it away, take time to pay:' Photo of car dealership in Upstate New York
Car Dealership in Upstate New York (Photo: Author)


Recovering from a broken credit score can be an existential challenge. While credit bureaus, banks, and regulators tend to suggest that errors can be fixed and scores improved without the need for special expertise, especially low-income Americans and traditionally disadvantaged groups are struggling to keep up.

Yet, while there is growing awareness of the implications of scoring systems for social and economic inequality, little is still known about the experience of those who have to live with them:

  • How do people make sense of and engage with scoring systems on a daily basis?
  • What strategies and tactics do they use to improve their situation?
  • What is the role of novel intermediaries like credit repair companies in this process?

Drawing on work in science & technology studies (STS), anthropology, sociology, and information science, this project traces the credit repair journeys of a small number of people in Upstate New York.


Are you concerned about your credit score? If you live in the NYS Finger Lakes region, consider registering as a volunteer for this research study (Cornell IRB no.1803007880).


Ziewitz, M. and R. Singh (forthcoming). Critical Companionship: Some Sensibilities for Studying with Data Subjects. Big Data & Society.

In the News

ISS grants jump-start new social science research, Cornell Chronicle, January 10, 2018