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Report: Payday loans drain up to $1B from communities

Charlene Crowell

One of the worst ironies of the nagging economic recession is that consumers with the fewest financial resources have lost the most. Now, a new report finds that payday loans not only strip much-needed income from low-income families, but also harm the economic viability of the communities where they operate, draining nearly $1 billion a year.

Written by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development (Insight Center), it also reveals other net negative impacts of these small-dollar, high cost loans on economic growth and personal bankruptcy filings.  

The Insight Center examined the net economic impact of the $3.3 billion in interest that borrowers paid to non-bank payday lenders in 2011. The study found that if consumers collectively had an additional $3.3 billion in discretionary spending, it would have resulted in $6.34 billion in economic activity and created 79,000 jobs.

In comparison, payday lending activity added $5.56 billion to the national economy and created 65,000 jobs.

Combining these figures shows a net loss from payday lending of $774 million in economic growth and over 14,000 jobs — in addition to $169 million lost through Chapter 13 bankruptcies.  

“This nearly $1 billion loss in economic activity should serve as a strong signal that, in addition to the well-documented harm to the families directly receiving payday loans, payday lending harms local community economies and the overall economy,” the report states.  

“Payday lending drains over $2.5 million from the economy each day,” the report continued. “In addition, we estimate that more than 38 people lose their jobs each day due to the economic drain of payday lending.”  

Payday lending has been a centerpiece of the Center for Responsible Lending’s (CRL) research and policy efforts over the past decade. CRL also supported the new report’s development.

Earlier CRL research determined that each year, 12 million Americans become entrapped in payday loans, taking out an average of nine loans per year. With more than 22,000 locations, there are more than two payday stores for every Starbucks coffee store.  

CRL has also documented how storefront payday lenders tend to concentrate locations in low-income and communities of color. The Southern states of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and South Carolina had the highest number of payday stores per 10,000 residents. Outside of the Deep South, Missouri and Nevada were the only states with comparable density of payday storefronts.

Similarly, the Insight Center found that five states that charged the greatest amount of payday loan interest were California, Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Illinois. In these locales, financial payday losses ranged from $135 million in California to $55 million in Illinois.  

Remarking on the Insight Center’s new findings, Keith Corbett, CRL executive vice president said, “Payday lending is really financial assault on communities  of color. By preying on consumers with few resources, this predatory product takes what little they have and winds up leaving borrowers worse off than before these loans.”    

Corbett’s comments are underscored by the Insight report. “Far from creating opportunity, payday lending creates impoverished households and endangers local economies,” the report concluded.  

Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending.