Usury Law and the Christian Right: Faith Based Political Power and the Geography of the American Payday Loan Regulation
34 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2008 Last revised: 5 Feb 2013
The culture war has become a national moniker describing a variety of policy debates between social conservatives and secular liberal Americans. Hotly contested battle grounds in this metaphorical war have included abortion policy, affirmative action, the right to bear arms, and gay marriage. Frequently these debates have divided secular Americans from people of faith. This article explores this cultural divide in the context of consumer financial services. In the past fifteen to twenty years America has witnessed a stunning transformation in financial services offered to lower and lower-middle classes. A new breed of fringe creditors charging prices far in excess of the old mafia loan sharking syndicates have spread throughout much of the country. The archetype of fringe creditors commonly referred to as payday lenders, charges average simple nominal annual interest rates of around 450 percent. This Article presents empirical research based on the largest, most comprehensive database of payday loan locations yet created. Payday lender locations are compared to an index measuring the political power of conservative Christian Americans in all fifty states. We conclude that there is a strong correlation between the density of payday lending industry and the political power of conservative Christians, suggesting that conservative Christians have become a prime demographic target of payday lenders. These findings are further discussed in light of Biblical injunctions against usury.
Keywords: usury, christian, christianity, conservative, bible, payday, loan, mafia, geography, interest, credit, loan, debt, predatory
JEL Classification: D18, D12, G18, G28, I30, I31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation