1.2 million people exposed to economic downturn due to lack of financial data

Large numbers of ‘squeezed middle’ have ‘thin file’ credit reports

UK, 12 March, 2018: New research from Experian has discovered more than one million people in the UK may have fewer options when it comes to accessing finance, due to having limited credit reports.

The analysis*, which was conducted ahead of Credit Awareness Week, has found there are at least four million ‘thin-file’ consumers in the UK. Of those four million, an estimated 1.2 million are in categories whose household income is forecast to contract over the next few years[1].

These people in the ‘squeezed middle’, who are working and earning but often struggle to make ends meet each month, would be among the most affected by an economic slowdown.

Experian analysis splits the squeezed middle into a further five groups. More than 350,000 people are in families where average incomes just about fit their current outgoings. This Balancing Budgets group is spread more evenly across the regions, with 15.1% of the group living in the South East, while the East Midlands and North West (14.4% each) both account for a significant number of people.

Meanwhile, more than 300,000 people are in the Single Endeavours group, who are in their 20s and 30s and trying to establish themselves financially. About a third (32.6%) of this group are based in Greater London.

The North West is home to 17.4% of the 225,000 people with Stretched Finances, who tend to be in lower skilled jobs and live in rented accommodation. Some 214,000 people with thin-file credit reports are coming up to retirement and experienced in making ends meet, while a further 125,000 are young renters who already struggle to pay bills each month.

Steve Thomas, Managing Director of Strategy at Experian UKI, said:

“There’s no doubt that current macroeconomic situation, particularly inflation outstripping income growth, is testing the resilience of people’s financial positions up and down the country. At times like this it is even more important that consumers understand and monitor their financial position and seek opportunities to improve or at least protect their finances.  Without access to appropriate mainstream financial services, people pay more for goods and services and have less choice.

“A person’s credit report is one of the factors lenders consider when they decide whether to accept a credit application. It can be thought of as a borrowing CV, which demonstrates someone’s financial track record. Where there is little information on a person they are considered to have a ‘thin file’, while some people have no information at all. The obvious ‘thin file’ impact is low credit score and limited borrowing options, certainly at competitive interest rates.

“By becoming more financially aware, people can make choices which are more sustainable, no matter what happens in the economy around them. Building a strong credit history takes time, but there are things you can do for free to improve it – such as registering to vote and using eligibility services to shop around without damaging your credit record. Checking your current credit score is also an easy – and free – first step.

“There are also actions the industry can take to help people avoid financial exclusion and we are making progress. Using new and more appropriate data sources is an important element in helping people who currently have ‘thin-file’ reports, so they can access a wider range of affordable finance options.”

‘Squeezed middle’ groups with ‘thin-file’ reports

Table 1: Those identified as being most likely to have ‘thin-file’ reports comes from five different consumer groups.[2]

FSS Group


Balancing Budgets

Families in their middle years balancing expenses with average incomes. People in the Balancing Budgets group tend to live in terraced and semi-detached housing on a repayment mortgage. They typically have limited savings and are keen to find value for money.

Seasoned Economy

Pre-retirement households who are experienced at making ends meet. This group mainly rely on their own judgement when making financial decisions.

Single Endeavours

Young single people working to establish themselves with low levels of financial commitments.  Mainly aged in their 20s and early 30s, this group regularly uses overdrafts and typically demonstrates a high level of internet and mobile phone use.

Young Essentials

Young people in their 20s, renting affordable accommodation. Young Essentials tend to struggle with bills and have a high mobile phone use. 

Stretched Finances

Middle aged adults with limited incomes. People in the Stretched Finances bracket tend to have lower skilled jobs and are often living in rented accommodation.

Table 2: Number of people in UK with ‘thin-file’ credit reports by FSS category

FSS category

Estimated number in UK with ‘thin’ credit files

Single Endeavours


Young Essentials


Balancing Budgets


Stretched Finances


Seasoned Economy




Table 3: Distribution of each FSS group across UK regions


Single Endeavours

Young Essentials

Balancing Budgets

Stretched Finances

Seasoned Economy

Greater London






South East






East Midlands






North West






South West






West Midlands






North East


















Northern Ireland






Notes to editors:

Experian is supporting Credit Strategy’s Credit Awareness Week, which runs from March 12 and aims to empower people to improve their financial futures.


*Experian took a random 1 in 100 sample from the credit bureau (c500k consumers) and analysed them by both Financial Strategy Segments (FSS), see below, and thin/thick file categories.  Those results were then multiplied by 100 to give a representation of the total population.  Experian Financial Strategy Segments (FSS) identifies the financial behaviours and attitudes of the UK population. FSS is built using a wide range of sources, including demographics, lifestyle, social, economic, behavioural, product consumption, service and channel preferences, for over 49 million UK adults, with over 500 variables. A 220,000-strong YouGov panel has been added to this which gives answers to over 100,000 questions covering finance, lifestyle and attitudes.

[1] Experian Economics suggests there is pressure over the next few years on household income growth because of inflation, the slowing of the service sector and, although unemployment has fallen, wage growth has been subdued. 

[2] Consumer groups taken from Experian Financial Strategy Segments (FSS). Financial Strategy Segment is a person and household level segmentation which provides an unrivalled depth of insight into the typical financial behaviours of UK consumers.

Media contact:

Marlin PR for Experian:

Tel: 0207 932 5580 / Email: experian@marlinpr.com

About Experian

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