Does Payday Lending Catch Vulnerable Communities in a Debt Trap?

32 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2010 Last revised: 5 Jul 2013

See all articles by Richard M. Hynes

Richard M. Hynes

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: April 5, 2010


Consumers can use loans to smooth consumption after suffering financial shocks. However, payday loans may catch some consumers in a debt trap that leads to financial collapse. Critics claim that payday lenders target minority and military communities, making these groups especially vulnerable to this trap. This article uses county-level data to test these claims. The results, like those of the existing literature, are mixed. Bankruptcy filings fall in counties with large military or minority communities after a state legalizes payday lending. Because this correlation might be due to states’ incentives in enacting payday lending laws, this article also tests the effect of a change in federal law that should have had a disparate impact according to the prior choice of state law. This second test provides results that less clearly contradict the debt-trap hypothesis.

Suggested Citation

Hynes, Richard M., Does Payday Lending Catch Vulnerable Communities in a Debt Trap? (April 5, 2010). Virginia Law and Economics Research Paper No. 2010-08, Available at SSRN:

Richard M. Hynes (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States
434-924-3743 (Phone)

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics