NEW YORK ( -- Credit scores give a measurement of an individual's financial health. Higher credit scores enable a consumer to receive the best interest rates on mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as better financing on larger purchases, such as automobiles.

Credit agency Experian recently released its

State of Credit study

ranking the

average credit scores of residents 143 cities in America

. Wausau, Wis., had the highest average credit score -- 789. Harlingen, Texas, had the lowest credit score, 686. The national average was 749. These scores are based on the VantageScore with a 501-990 scoring range.

The Midwest wins in a ranking of credit scores, with Wausau, Wis., being the best of 143, and Texas loses -- big time.

The study found that eight of the top 10 cities with the highest average credit score were in the Midwest. Four of the 10 cities with the lowest average credit score were in Texas.

There is a significant relationship between a city's average credit score and its unemployment rate. Nine of the top 10 cities with the highest average scores have unemployment rates below the national average of 9.2%.

The average debt for the U.S. is $25,542 this year, down about 1% from a year ago. Six of the 10 cities with the lowest average debt were Midwestern cities. Seven of the 10 cities with the highest average debt were in the South.

This study illustrates the financial cycle. Credit scores determine the interest rates consumers pay on loans. If jobs are scarce or you are struggling to make ends meet, chances are you can't pay your bills and you may incur more debt. If you have a high debt-payment ratio, this will lower your credit score and increase your rate for interest payments, costing you more money and adding to the balance on your credit card.

It is no coincidence that the cities with the lowest credit scores have some of the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates. When you are struggling to get through the day, it is tough to break out of this cycle.

-- Reported by Bill Hardekopf of

Bill Hardekopf is chief executive of

, which compares and rates more than 1,000 credit cards. He is the co-author of "The Credit Card Guidebook."