Study Says Payday Lenders More Prevalent In Areas Of High Christian Conservative Power

A law professor and associate professor of geography set out to create the most comprehensive map of U.S. payday lenders to date. What they found, to their surprise, was “a surprising relationship between populations of Christian conservatives and the proliferation of payday lenders.” And it’s not a side effect of a poor population that happens to be Christian, according to the authors: “Our research showed that the correlation between payday lenders and the political power of conservative Christians was stronger than the correlation between payday lenders and the proportion of a population living below the poverty line.”

Here are a couple of screen grabs from Google Earth—you can download and view the maps yourself if you want to explore them.


The authors speculate that this may be the sad after-effect of a political deal-with-the-devil a couple of decades ago—after all, Christianity has historically been against usury:

Peterson, who also holds an appointment at the University of Florida, Fredric G. Levin College of Law, said he believes part of the explanation for their findings lies in politics. “When the Christian Right allied itself with conservative Wall Street business interests in the 1980s and early ’90s, consumer protection law was placed to the side as an inconvenient sticking point. The laws allowing an astonishing number of triple-digit-interest-rate lenders throughout most of the Christian South and Mormon West are a legacy of that political alliance.

(Thanks to Mike!)

“U of U Professor Coauthors Study Mapping Correlation Between Christian Right, Payday Lenders” [S.J. Quinney College of Law – University of Utah]

Interactive data maps [California State University Northridge]
“Usury Law and the Christian Right: Faith Based Political Power and the Geography of the American Payday Loan Regulation” [SSRN]


Edit Your Comment

  1. yawn. This seems kinda stupid.

  2. johnva says:

    My guess is that it’s just that these places thrive in highly Republican states, since those states would be more likely to have lax regulations and lax enforcement from state attorney general offices, etc. Conservative Christians vote Republican because so many are single issue voters.

  3. nequam says:

    I’m not surprised, based on the correlation between crazy christians and dummies. Just kidding, God, please don’t hurt me.

  4. causation does not equal correlation. this post seems a little too political for my taste. left wing schadenfreude.

  5. Yet another reason it’s so great living in Connecticut…actually, probably the only reason.

  6. MissTic says:

    I grew up right in the middle of the most “dotted” part of that map in a large city and it’s most decidedly “blue” in terms of political power. The Democrats have been the majority for decades upon decades. This is also a heavy “fundamentalist” area yet the voting doesn’t often reflect that. Of course Southern Democratic political beliefs are going to be different than East Coast Democratic political beliefs. Just throwing that out there….

    Also, I really have to wonder about the poverty link. Or more to the point, the link between blue collar earners and payday loans.

    As for usury law and the bible, outside of strict fundamentalist groups, not many average Christians follow the bible literally.

  7. yesteryear says:

    @johnva: thats a great point. on a lighter note, according to the map, it would appear that much of california’s highway 5 is paved with the broken dreams of those who frequent the payday lenders. spooky!

  8. laserjobs says:

    It just shows there is a difference between people who know they can afford something or think they can afford something.

  9. missbheave (is not convinced) says:

    This is not really surprising since the majority of conservative Christians are Republican and Republicans support getting rich off poor peop–I mean capitalism.

  10. UpsetPanda says:

    Where payday lenders set up shop does not mean Christian = payday lender suckers. In a lot of ways, Christianity in the South can also be seen as a movement of faith and of culture. You go to church because you believe, but it is also a social network and support system. A lot of people see their church as a way of finding help, support and care, whether emotional support or physical by way of donations.

    Payday lenders are leeches upon the desperate. Whether they are Christians or not makes no difference. I’d like to see another map, showing the crime rates around the country and crossing them with payday lenders. I don’t know what they would be for the South, but in a lot of areas, access to easy crime may replace the need for a payday lender agreement. In a town of 3,000, it’s probably not very easy to steal a TV and pawn it, but if you need money right now, payday lending would be available.

  11. jeblis says:

    Wait stupid people are more likely to be republican, poor, and religious? No way!

  12. deadlizard says:

    Bon Jovi said it best: “Livin’ on a Prayer”

  13. tozmervo says:

    What I’m not buying is the “Christian Power Index.” How was that developed? How did they decide that, for example, Tennessee is at the opposite end of their scale from Arkansas? The article doesn’t provide information on that half of the information.

  14. bohemian says:

    I am really surprised South Dakota doesn’t peg higher on that map. We have tons of these payday lenders and we are pretty much a usury buffet with no state laws left against it.

    What seems to be the typical profile of the local christian conservative here is that they are Republican because of culture warrior issues, they are also anti taxation and totally for free market with no oversight. They also tend to have no concern for the poor and see it as standard operating procedure, this usually also goes hand and hand with a desire to disband all welfare type programs.

    So I see this as a plausible connection.

  15. nequam says:

    @UpsetPanda: I think you would find that population density is the best indicator of crime rates. In fact, you seem to recognize that. But this idea that crime is an alternative to payday loans in funny. Unless there is some correlation between payday loans and drug addiction. Most petty crime is committed by addicts.

  16. ClayS says:

    How do they explain the near absence of these lenders in the very populous Northeast?

  17. Sorry, I’ve got to call BS on this. First off, I question the validity of some of their “Christian Power Index” calculations. Georgia and North Carolina are ranked on the lowest level of the scale? I’m from the south and that doesn’t make any sense to me.

    Regardless of that though, if you look at the graph, the states that are marked as having a low “Christian Power Index” that have no payday lenders are [brace yourself] THE STATES THAT DO NOT ALLOW PAYDAY LENDING!! When you take that into consideration, basically all you see is a simple breakdown of population density across the country and no religious correlation at all.

    My argument is not to support payday lenders, or christians (I don’t support either), mainly just to point out that this study is complete crap.

  18. ironchef says:

    it explains a lot on why they love deficit spending.

  19. cuiusquemodi says:

    If one took out a loan and was subsequently raptured…

  20. cuiusquemodi says:

    If one was to take out a loan and was subsequently raptured…

  21. ClayS says:

    @Dustin Earnhardt:
    It’s a case of an academic leftist developing a “Christian Power Index” to suit his very biased viewpoint.

    There is little doubt the distribution of payday lenders is most influenced by state regulation first and low-income residents second.

  22. cuiusquemodi says:

    Disregard the previous post. I thought it had been eaten by a comment gnome.

  23. Mr. Gunn says:

    Anyone else think this is obvious?

  24. RandomHookup says:

    @tozmervo: Good point. After all, Arkansas had a Baptist preacher governor who still has some national political power. I’d expect a stronger correlation from the number of illegal immigrants or military bases.

  25. StaticMisery says:

    I lived in Alabama for four years and can verify this.In some towns,it seems as if there’s one of these places on every corner.

  26. laserjobs says:

    @Mr. Gunn: Very Obvious

  27. m4ximusprim3 says:

    @Dustin Earnhardt: Lol, I was going to point this out as well.

    This study is kind of useless, since lots of states don’t allow for payday lending.

    I do like the fact that it suggests christians are stupid though. I’ve always held that to be a loosely true relationship. I guess my search for factual evidence continues. So far, all I’ve come up with is the fact that I bought my second xbox 360 from a guy on craigslist who “gave it up for lent”. Whatever that means. Don’t you usually start back up once easter comes around?

  28. dazette says:

    Wow, just wow. As one who lives in the Chicago area it is quite obvious that neither the purveyors, or the users, of payday loans at least around here, are predominantly “conservative Christians”. This article really does not merit space on the Consumerist site. Do ya think it may be just the teensiest bit agenda driven?

    But for those who can still think straight—- how does google earth know who are the liberal Christians versus the conservative Christians? How did the “conservative right” suddenly become synonymous with Christian right? And how to account for all those fine folk in the “Bible Belt” (whatever that is) who are not of the Christian faith, or who consider themselves Democrats/liberal Christians? What a crock.

  29. Trai_Dep says:

    For a party (and ideology) that’s actively hostile towards ideas – or at least ideas that can’t be expressed on a bumper sticker – I’m not surprised. I’ll bet if you measured geographically likelihood that a state is prone to believe that 1) Saddam was responsible for 9/11, or 2) magical fairies (sorry, a magical bearded guy in a robe) created the Universe or 3) an unfettered marketplace trumps selective, judicious regulation in overall growth and happiness.

    Or, more concisely: stupid is as stupid does.

    By the gods, if these yahoos’ shoes weren’t velcro-ed to the ground, they’d be arguing the Theory of Gravity is “just a theory”.

  30. bchains says:


  31. ClayS says:

    “I do like the fact that it suggests christians are stupid though.”

    I don’t like that at all, and I’m a Jew. It is very simply, intolerance for the beliefs of others. Do you think bigotry is a good thing?

  32. Trai_Dep says:

    @MissTic: no surprise: cities are atypical of Conservative areas. Having to interface with, you know, the real world tends to mitigate against mediaeval impulses.

    Outside of strict fundamentalists, few Christians follow the bible literally.
    Want to know a little secret? The strict Fundamentalists don’t follow the Bible all that carefully either. They’re simply into loud self-proclamations, pointing fingers, then skipping whichever portions of The Bible are inconvenient. Words over actions. Sort of like Republicans in general – talk loudly, then do opposite.

  33. forgottenpassword says:

    Its sad. Here in Missouri…. even in the decent neighborhoods there is now the odd payday loan business. It didnt used to be this way years ago. Back then they were only in the poor neighborhoods.

    I hate those predatory lending places. Pure evil IMO.

  34. Trai_Dep says:

    @ClayS: The day a Jewish Governor addresses a major, state-wide drought by having a Day of Prayer rather than adopting water conservation measures, watch me become anti-Semitic. Of course, that’d never happen since (insert positive stereotype about Jews valuing education here). :)

  35. RenardRouge says:

    Why is it the liberals are always the loudest?

  36. This story is silly and lazy. This has nothing to do with religion or politics and the idea that someone would try to make the connection in the first place is suspect.

    As much as I would like to throw some groups (ie Religious Conservatives) under the bus for something or another, and their may be an argument for HOW it got to be such a popular service and why there is limited regulation, but it would appear that, more than anything, this is a matter of populate density, not religion. The best example is seen in southern Cali, the bay area,the northern valley along I5 and along I5 into Oregon and Washington.

    Another problem is they are looking at the whole state vs the area where the lenders are actually located — ya know, where people live). And, though I don’t really want to point this out, in the interest of intellectual honesty; the more densely populated areas tend to be more liberal.

    Another problem we have with this data is the lack of lenders in the north east. Certainly they would be there if they were allowed. I also questions they way they ranked this; how could Georgia, North Carolina and West Virginia be ranked the same as New York, Mass, PA, etc..? That seems questionable to me.

    You could probably do the same thing with fast food restaurants, car dealerships, or Outlet Malls. Though the North East would be included and provided more useful data.

    Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe GOD is letting this happen — ya know, with his “mysterious ways” and all.

  37. Scuba Steve says:

    @Trai_Dep: Its not like the prayer day was the only thing Georgia did. We have huge watering restrictions and all of our counties have cut water usage 15-35%

  38. DrGirlfriend says:

    I live in Portland, OR, and there are lots of payday lenders here. I would not consider this area either the Mormon West nor Conservative Christian-land. And yet look at all those lenders tagged onto that part of the map.

    Someone *really* wants to see a link between religion and payday lenders. The map itself clearly shows that it’s a combo of population denisty and whether or not individual states even allow payday lending.

  39. m4ximusprim3 says:

    @ClayS: I have nothing against their beliefs. They have every right to believe in a giant, celestial santa claus.

    What I do think is that people who believe in ideas such as god based on their own desire for order in the universe are probably prone to tricking themselves into believing all sorts of other nonsense which has no basis in reality either. Just because something makes you feel good or safe doesn’t mean it’s true. Millions of people lose millions of dollars every year to people who sell them crap because it makes them feel good.

    Or, to use another term, are stupid.

  40. Trai_Dep says:

    @Scuba Steve: Really? I stand corrected. From the way the media cover it here in California (we know a thing or two about droughts and over-development), the papers seemed to suggest that Georgia’s approach to solving their drought was simply prayer. Thanks, I learned something today!

  41. overbysara says:

    I don’t think it’s surprising… the more educated you are, the less likely you are to be strongly religious. so the strongly religious are more likely to be duped by payday loans.


  42. overbysara says:

    not surprising. there is a correlation between education and religion. the more educated you are, the less likely to be religious. hence, also more likely to be duped by payday.


  43. overbysara says:

    dammit. my comment never showed up so I tried again and now it magically appears.

  44. Trai_Dep says:

    Perhaps the reason that Georgia and N Carolina are shaded more lightly than one might think is that they both have metropolises in them? That’d go a far way to mitigating the – well – rank ignorance.

    And, while I snark at The South in general, I realize that there are great, independent-minded people there. Even if a cruelly persecuted minority. :D

  45. Nick says:

    I suggest that all of you read the actual study (linked to above on the SSRN page). I just skimmed it, and, as usual, the authors don’t even come close to making the claims that you all seem to think they’re making.

    As a formally-trained social scientist, I’ve seen too many times that people will almost always completely miss the point of a study (often with the help of the media). People will project their own biases onto the results and irrationally dismiss or exaggerate the study’s findings.

    At face value, there are a lot of alternative explanations for these findings, and the authors take the time to deal with those alternatives in the actual article.

    That being said, however, law reviews are typically not peer-reviewed (I’ve published in both social science and law journals, and there is a big difference), and so this article should be taken at face value: a collection of interesting data.

  46. I did get this out of my liberal arts undergraduate degree: correlation=/= causality. everything else is a blur

  47. ninjatales says:

    Payday Lenders are from heaven. :P

  48. Chris Walters says:

    I am astounded by the amount of knee-jerk reactions I’m reading. I expected some, but I also expected Consumerist readers in general to be more capable of taking part in a rational, reasoned discussion.

    If you’re going to call bullshit on a study, at least read the study first and then give some real, academically sound reasons for why it’s no good. I’d welcome that, as I’m not a statistician. But simply “calling bullshit” for a variety of badly argued reasons doesn’t make a useful comment. Page 19 of the report explains how they came up with their “Christian Power Index” scores. Anyone care to give knowledgeable feedback on that?

    If you’re swinging around the “this is leftist” or “this is bigoted” or any other sort of PC club, shame on you for trying to close down a discussion with unwarranted attacks. READ THE ARTICLE if you disagree with the post and THEN form and write an opinion. Better yet, READ THE REPORT that the article is about.

    It’s quite obvious, if you read the article or the report, that the authors do not intend to attack religious faith—rather they are pointing out a surprising connection between an influential religious movement and the rise of a type of usury that has historically been antithetical to the movement’s teachings. (I actually suspect that at least one of the authors is writing from a position of faith.) That is indeed an interesting finding and worthy of discussion.

  49. RubyAnn says:

    This seems like yet another bit of Geography taken out of context and messed with by unscrupulous statisticians. I’d love to see the original document… off to google it…

  50. Chris Walters says:

    And if you still refuse to read the article before commenting, at least read these two paragraphs (emphasis mine) so that you can understand that the report is hardly an attack:

    In addition to the article presenting their findings, Peterson and Graves have posted online the charts, maps and tables they prepared for the study. “We believe that these materials graphically and conclusively demonstrate that conservative Christian Americans are a prime demographic target of the payday lending industry,” Peterson said.

    Peterson explained that the authors of the study hope the results of their work will give lawmakers, as well as spiritual leaders and people of faith, insight into the problem of payday lending. “Our findings should serve as a wake-up call reminding Christian leaders of the Biblical duty to expel usurious money changers from their flocks,” he concluded.

  51. jstonemo says:

    I am still stunned that California ranked higher on the Christian Power Index than Iowa! That right there should point out the flaw in the Christian Power Index. Come on, CALIFORNIA, you’ve got to be kidding me.

  52. Correlation does not equal causation.

    The states in the deep south featured also have a high degree of social stratification among races. In other words: lots of poor, churchgoing blacks.

    There’s nothing in my experience as a Southerner that would lead me to believe that Christians are more susceptible to payday lenders – in fact, the most uptight Christians seem to network through church and get each other decent-paying do-nothing jobs at places like IEM and West Coast Imaging.

  53. It should be added that there’s a bright stripe of payday lenders in California’s poorer Christian central valley – again, populated in a large part by a minority that is religious – latino Christians.

    Like the poor blacks in the south, they (for good or ill) believe in the goodness of their fellow man, and that is probably why they believe the big yellow signs – and don’t read the contract.

  54. sorry we didn’t read the journal article. talk about boring. Anyways the title of this post says Payday Lenders are more prevalent in areas of high christian conservative power.

  55. DrGirlfriend says:

    It’s not claiming that Christians are more susceptible. The gist is that states with what they call a high Christian Power Index are suprisingly lenient when it comes to allowing such usury.

    The thing is, addressing Chris’s post, that I still think that a link was being sought, and I’m not so sure that the data isn’t being seen by the people conducting the study through a very particular lens. I admit I haven’t pored over the entire report, but what I have seen so far doesn’t sway me away from the idea that there is a LOT more to this than Christian states being permissive of usury. Also, I have to admit that the link they are trying to create makes me uncofortable, in that I see it as mixing church and state.

  56. DrGirlfriend says:

    Am I the only one whose computer (or should I say computers, since this happens to me at work and at home) freezes when trying to compose posts that are more than a few words long? It only happens to me on this site. Argh.

  57. Mojosan says:

    What a moronic, unscientific study which has no place on Consumerist.

    How about a map showing all night liquor stores, crack houses, or per capita murder rates. Sockingly, they will most likely all be heavily concentrated in urban, blue states.

  58. Kanti_V2 says:

    @Mojosan: And you have missed the point as well, but by much more than this article has. The crime statistics you have in your head are dead wrong, since the highest crime areas in the nation are all in red states.

    But it has nothing to do with the states being red or blue, or the cities trending democratic or republican, or the concentration of christians, it has to do with poverty. Areas of high poverty are high in hopelessness and desperation, which leads to the adoption of more extreme versions of religion (like the christian right).

    This desperation also leads to more authoritarian power systems in the home, which leads people to find comfort and a positive self image in other authoritarian power structures (like christians, wahabists, and republicans).

    THAT is why payday lenders, and christianists are so commonly linked geographically, because they both prey on poverty.

  59. Kanti_V2 says:

    @Kanti_V2: My point is, looking at their map, the conclusion of their research is wrong, since it looks almost exactly like the distribution of high poverty.

  60. youbastid says:

    @Mojosan: “Urban, blue states”? What a moronic, unscientific comment. I don’t know of any states that are entirely urban. Even better, the only all night liquor stores I’ve ever seen have been in red states.

  61. ClankBoomSteam says:


    For the record, While California is a “Blue State”, this comes from its two main population centers: Los Angeles and San Francisco. The hundreds of miles between the two are decidedly conservative, religious and rural.

  62. memphis9 says:


    I don’t know – it’s been awhile since I’ve been in CA, but isn’t evangelicism making inroads into the hispanic community on both sides of the border?

    This is not to equate evangelicism with ignorance per se, but having lived in the West, Midwest and South, I would tend to believe that large Southern Baptist populations do tend to occur where there is also the worst “for profit” exploitation of the poor – by “rent to own” furniture stores, title lenders, high-roller televangelists, etc. You’ll also find very little in the way of state or church supported services like tenant advocacy, legal aid… – more like these are places with near-caste systems, where populations are even more extremely segregated from each other in terms of where they shop, work, pray, than in (relatively) more affluent parts of the West, Upper Midwest, or Northeast.

    I will say that it’s beyond discouraging to drive through areas where the schools are nearly windowless, prison-like structures on dead ground and then just right down the road you’ve got acres of pristine manicured real estate, a sprawling church complex, huge crosses erected – in one neighborhood near me, there is a particularly stunning abomination of a $200K (!)”Statue of Liberty maybe 1/10th scale that was recently erected – taller than most of the buildings around there, only this “Miss Liberty” is a slightly modified version, holding up a bible and crucifix…I like to call it the statue of religious bigotry…and the cash to build it came from church members in the most depressed area…$200K could have helped boost more than a few of community based businesses, maybe fund some adacemic scholarships for local kids…this is a digression, sorry, but where religion seems to fall in line with other ways in which a community is fractured with groups walled off from one another, payday lending and anything else that preys on the weak and can be defended legally, won’t tend to find any particularly well organized opposition.

  63. Nick says:

    @Kanti_V2: Except in the article, the authors report that the correlation with christian concentration is stronger than the correlation with SES/poverty or with race.

  64. Jesse in Japan says:

    American Christians have this tendency to believe that poor people are poor because god hates them.

    It’s an idea that comes out of the Social Darwinism craze of the late 19th century (funny, because they don’t believe in that other kind of Darwinism) and Calvinism. One of the central beliefs of Calvinism is pre-destination and, as it evolved in America (under the Puritans), the belief that people destined for heaven would naturally be favored by god while still alive. In short: people who were rich and successful and happy must be god’s chosen people while people who were rich and miserable were all going to hell.

    This is a very unfortunate and rarely-discussed theological aspect of American Christianity, but its effects can still be seen to this day in modern Christian thought in America.

    Somehow, the belief that rich people are simply better than poor people has become a part of the Christian faith, in spite of all of those things Jesus said in the actual Bible.

  65. Jesse in Japan says:

    Sorry, I meant “people who were poor and miserable were all going to hell.”

  66. savdavid says:

    There is no God or else why would he allow his “children” to be preyed on?

  67. Kenneth says:
  68. CPC24 says:

    What a joke. What about Vermont, Illinois, or Iowa? They sure buck the trend.

  69. Bladefist says:

    @missbehave: Wow a Socialist on the internet. Crazy.

  70. says:

    @Petrarch1603: agreed

  71. galatae says:

    Oh man, I’m surrounded! Totally Moving Now.

  72. lostsynapse says:

    I thought those wacky Evangelicals were all into the gospel of wealth. []

  73. goodkitty says:

    @Jesse in Japan: I’m pretty sure that the belief that rich people are better than poor people is a universal concept, regardless of faith.

    Looking at the chart, I have to wonder how the economics part of it works. Are we seeing more lenders in places with less overall affluence, less education, and less industry?

    But, regarding the Christian angle, I for one stopped believing that Christians knew anything about their religion a long time ago (but, that holds equally true for most other religions as well–they’re more of a social choice than a faith one aren’t they).

    If I had the time I’d love to do a research study and show better correlations between payday lending and other socio-economic factors. I have to agree with DrGirlfriend here… they were looking for something to justify a conclusion they reached before-hand.

  74. synergy says:

    @MissTic: You beat me to it. I think there’s more of a link to income and education.

    There is a link between faith/religiosity(?) and education – that is, an inverse relationship. Studies have been done on the subject. The one I can find right now was published in Nature magazine Vol. 394, No. 6691, p. 313 (1998) and was used to compare upper level scientists with a belief in a personal God.

    Those states, in particular Mississippi and Alabama, tend to come in at the bottom 5 states in education for as long as I’ve been alive.

  75. cmdr.sass says:

    You can stop reading right after the phrase “Christian Power Index”. Roll your eyes and move on to the next “news” item.

  76. Peeved Guy says:

    The level of religious tolerance on this thread just envelopes me like a warm flannel blanket, fresh from the dryer.

  77. junkmail says:

    You people scare me. Seriously.

  78. jem7 says:

    Why don’t you all just get it over with and feed Christians to the lions?

  79. Trai_Dep says:

    @Chris Walters: Bravo. Simply well-said. Again, bravo!

  80. Trai_Dep says:

    @jem7: Because that’d be cruel to the lions?

  81. Snowblind says:

    I wonder what would happen if they superimposed “Pawn shops” on that map as well?

    Oh right… they might all be in metropolitan areas.

  82. crankymediaguy says:

    “Why don’t you all just get it over with and feed Christians to the lions?”

    Most animals won’t eat garbage.

    [For the record, no, I don’t think that most Christians are garbage, but, hey, you kinda asked for it with your post.]

  83. Hambriq says:

    Yet another excellent statistical study revealing the uselessness of statistics.

  84. Bunklung says:

    BY DUSTIN EARNHARDT AT 02/15/08 05:46 PM

    My argument is not to support payday lenders, or christians (I don’t support either), mainly just to point out that this study is complete crap.

    That about sums it up.

  85. Karmakin says:

    I think it’s about the laws and regulations. There are a couple of exceptions of course, Vermont being the big one. But it’s pretty clear (very clear?) that states that tend to be more socially conservative also tend to be very poor when it comes to regulating business/consumer protection.

    The real questions is, is this a coincidence or not. Personally, I lean to not. My feeling/experience is that social conservativism doesn’t result in a greater sense of morality in other areas, but exactly the opposite. They’re doing their duty fighting the gay menance, so when it comes to business that morality thing is covered.

  86. Falconfire says:

    @johnva: Maybe, but NJ is a major swing state, we have had no issues going republican or democratic, and where republican for years before switching over to democratic 5 years ago.

  87. bigduke says:

    I would also point out that a bunch of these “red” or “conservative” states do very little in terms of a safety net for people near the poverty line. For better or worse when you eliminate that safety net people will turn to other means to get by. Payday loans fill that gap.

    These states probably have very lax lending laws which allow those companies to charge %500 interest on their loans.

    So you have lots of poor customers, and lots of loose laws that don’t restrict your abilty to soak them.

    It’s a match made in heaven!

  88. HOP says:

    i don’t know how many christian conservatives del. has, but they have an awful lot of those cash advance/ payday loans and loans on your auto title places……..

  89. Trai_Dep says:

    Don’t the commentators decrying the study, without reading the study prove the conclusion of the study?

    Reading is hard, people. I GET it.

    But breezing thru the comments, then tacking on, “Eww, I don’t like the conclusions, so I’ll say it’s bunk” pretty much supports one of its corollaries: Conservatives are willfully ignorant?

  90. forgeten says:

    I would like to point out that the reason there is no payday lending in NC is because the interest rate they were charging is was illegal in NC. []

  91. asherchang2 says:

    This isn’t very surprising. Fundamentalism and Conservatism are diseases that hamper rationality.

  92. Late to the discussion but:
    1- Christian voting power highly correlates with republican legislatures. Republican legislatures highly correlate with eroded consumer protections. Eroded consumer protections highly correlate with shady businesses like payday loan companies.
    1a- I would note that cities in red states may in fact be blue, but they still have red legislatures, and they have higher concentrations of people. If you were going to open a payday loan joint, you’d go where the po peoples is at, regardless of how they vote. You don’t care red/blue, you only care green.

    2- Maybe hard core Christians are more trusting (and therefore more gullible) than your average American. I mean, hell, if you’re a literalist you have to believe in transubstantiation. So, maybe more X-tians buy into more scams in general.
    2a- Again, they buy into transubstantiation and a 6000 year old earth. It cannot be too hard to make them believe that a pay day loan is a bad deal, can it?

  93. dandd says:

    The South is the poorest part of the nation. Who would’ve guessed?

  94. CPC24 says:

    @PotKettleBlack: Only Catholics believe in transubstantiation. Almost all (if not all) Protestants don’t.

  95. jimmy37 says:

    I don’t believe any study that pushes a specific political view without seeing original data and a full understanding of the methods. There are too many liars walking around as statisticians.

  96. robtbork says:

    What am I missing? You mean to say that Georgia and N. Carolina have virtually NO payday loan services? Theres none noted in those states.

  97. Trai_Dep says:

    @CPC24: Phew.
    Oh wait, Protestants believe that magical sprites created a 6,000 year-old Earth in a week, though, right? And that the scores of billions of all species that existed, ever, resulted from being squeezed into one boat made by an illiterate farmer living in a pre-Bronze Age era?

    I could go on (and on, and on), but son, you’re in no position to argue who’s slightly-variant belief system is more rational.

    That said, the Catholics put on a much better show. I’ll give them that.

  98. junkmail says:

    I’ve got an idea, let’s replace the word “Christian” with “Muslim”, or maybe “Black”, and see how quickly some of these comments get you banned. I’ve never been so disgusted in my life at some of the tripe the mods are letting slide in this thread.

    I thought this was Consumerist, not Digg.

  99. jesse0 says:

    It’s amazing how many armchair scholars come out of the woodwork anytime the suggestion that conservative policies might be bad for Americans. Allegations of “Leftist agendas” and “intolerance” abound!

    I suggest that ClayS, petrarch1603 and others take a look at page 19 of the study. It clearly explains wht the Christian Power Index is and how it is assigned. Someone accused this study of being lazy, well how lazy can you be to criticize a PDF you can’t even be bothered to go download and read!?

    Measuring the power of Christian values in the legislative process is no easy task, especially at the state level, but we believe that we have created a reasonable proxy. This proxy, which we refer to as the Christian Power Index (CPI) was generated by ranking states according to three variables: 1) the per capita density of Evangelical Christians and Mormons, 2) a Christian Political Organization score, for state wide delegations and individual congress persons calculated by averaging the “score” assigned to each member of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate by a panel of three conservative Christian political action groups, and 3) an average statewide Congressional delegation voting record on social/cultural issues as published online by Poole and Rosenthal.

    You will note that they used the rankings of conservative Christian organizations to develop their own. Once again, the tired complaint of liberal bias is defeated by the facts.

  100. nequam says:

    @CPC24: True, but most Catholics accept evolution.

  101. KJones says:

    While in no way would I, nor am I, comparing Payday Loans conmen and the Ku Klux Klan (since many victims of Payday Loan scams are black), there seems to be the same gullibility in the rabidly christian poor and those who sided with the KKK in the past.

    The poor thought the KKK and Payday Loans were helping when in fact the loaners and politically connected were in bed and helping each other.

    One thing I don’t understand about this crap is why employers don’t provide advances to low wage employees. Since it’s money already earned, why can’t the employer loan it in advance without interest?

    And if we’re talking about people on welfare, why don’t the banks offer short term loans for small amounts to people with accounts at their banks for at least two years? It would eliminate a lot of such legalized thievery.

  102. zomgorly says:

    Georgia and North Carolina are not included because both states make payday loans illegal.

  103. forgeten says:

    @robtbork: its illegal in NC. Have no idea about GA.

  104. olegna says:

    I think there’s more of a correlation between the politics of de-regulation in these states, albeit the de-regulation advocates then to draw their support from Christian evangelicals.

    But I will say that my family’s business when I was growing up noticed that people who pay with checks that have the little Jesus fish logo on them were more likely to write hot checks. I saw this in effect, especially among people who have Jesus fish on their checks and wanted NET-30 or NET-60 payments (get the product, then pay within 30 or 60 days without interest — a courtesy to regular retail customers). They type of product the business sold was likely to end up in gift shops in Red States, so we would get a lot of “Jesus fish” checks. (Not a majority of the checks, but a noticeable amount of them.)

    Our theory was that people so into Christianity that they would advertise their faith as logos on their checks were more likely to run their businesses under the business model that “the Lord will come through for you in a pinch”. Subsequently, they were more likely to write a check for something in hopes the funds would be available when the check is cashed.

    Obviously you don’t need to be a evangelical to engage in such irresponsible behavior, nor do all evangelical business people engage in this habit. But numbers don’t lie, and a disproportional amount of “Jesus fish” checks that bounced.

    I guess some Christians have forgotten the concept that God helps those than help themselves, which to me, a Godless heathen, sounds suspiciously tautological: if you help yourself do you really need God’s “intervention”?.

  105. Trai_Dep says:

    To those that suggest that there’s anti-Christian animus in this conversation, keep in mind that it’s our hostility to organized religion intruding in the public sphere – a feeling our Founding Fathers also had – that is the real target of our ire.

    Religion’s a great thing, kept inside the home. The problem is, of course, the Bible Thumpers can’t seem to embrace this American concept.

    You cram it down others’ throats, you legislate based on it in a punitive, non-Christlike fashion, you leap on your soapbox pointing fingers while selectively choosing which snips are “relevant”, then so as you reap, you sow.

    So to speak.

  106. Peeved Guy says:

    @Trai_Dep: So it’s OK then to insult ALL Christians in posts that are meant to target only the hypocritical jackasses that try to “cram religion down your throat”. Somehow, that doesn’t make much sense to me.

    How is that stereotyping better than any other?

  107. Peeved Guy says:

    @Trai_Dep: So for one to insult Christians as a whole is OK because there are some hypocritical jackasses?

    So this is an OK stereotype, then? I guess so. I doubt the ACLU will be leaping to the rescue of the Fundamental Christian Right anytime soon.

  108. Peeved Guy says:

    Arrg. Sorry for the double post. I thought 5-ish minutes would be enough, I guess not. I had a post get eaten the other day, so I’m a bit on guard.

  109. Trai_Dep says:

    Until the good Christians rise up and denounce the Rome-genuflecting and temple-money-changing ones, yes. In a word. If evil hypocrites stole my religion in the name of their own personal power, I’d be at the barricades. By falling silent, by allowing them to act in my faith’s name, I’d be as bad as they were.

    I certainly wouldn’t be offended if others blamed me for the horrible things done by a sect that got out of control while I sat on my hands.

    Don’t like being compared, do something about it. Or take your lumps.

  110. Peeved Guy says:

    @Trai_Dep: Wow. That’s the best you can do? The “good” Christians should roundly denounce the “bad” Christians? Then, wouldn’t they be doing the same thing they would be denouncing the “bad” guys for? Telling them how to live their lives and practice their religion? Kinda a conundrum, isn’t it? Not to mention, if that was universally practiced, I’d wager that the world would be a MUCH happier place. So good luck with that. So, by your logic, it’s OK for me to call all Muslims terrorists? That’s for the green-light.

    And by the way, I’m not offended, I guess it bothers me when I hear people making statements like the ones I’ve been reading here, because it is those same folks that are the first to start making statements about the gubmint being unjust to “brown people” when there is even a hint of racial profiling while air traveling (for example). Seems kinda hypocritical (to bring my point full-circle).

  111. Chigaimasmaro says:

    This just proves that religion and politics don’t and shouldn’t be mixed.

  112. Peeved Guy says:

    @Peeved Guy: When I said “That’s for the green-light.”, I meant, Thanks for the green light.

    @BookbagNinja: How so? I’m specifically directing my comment to those who feel the burning need to criticize a large section of society based on the actions of a few.

  113. Javert says:

    @Trai_Dep: You seem to get upset by people forcing their beliefs upon you but it is OK for you to force your beliefs?

    Religion is a system of beliefs. Atheism too is a belief system. Hence, atheism is a form of religion and should be treated as such.

    I find it funny when people lable another group and say ‘they believe this’ when in reality you know nothing about the other group.

    Just an FYI for some of you: most religous people believe in evolution and see the bible as a book of parables. Yes, since the book was written by those with the power of the time, gays were not treated well by said book. And most people who have a religion or simply believe in some form of God know this and do not pay attention to it. It is more for the stories of being charitable, kind, etc.

    The big bang theory was proposed by a Roman Catholic priest. Hmmm. Guess they are not a bunch of bumpkins after all.

  114. TechnoDestructo says:


    Read the study. (the last link the SSRN link [])

    The colors on that map do NOT correspond to the “Christian Power Index,” they are for rankings of the number of payday lenders. Thus the things being compared on the overlay map are the number of payday lenders…vs the number of payday lenders.

    Look on page 29 of the PDF. There’s your correlation.

    Also, in the first few pages, they explain the CPI. It doesn’t sound perfect, but it isn’t complete bullshit.

  115. PaydayLender says:

    As a representative of payday lenders, I wanted to let you know about this press release recently released by the industry:

    Payday lenders called a new study that claims to have “conclusive proof that conservative Christian Americans are a prime demographic target of the payday lending industry” preposterous.

    This study, “Usury Law and the Christian Right,” comes on the heels of prior allegations that payday lenders locate in communities with high populations of military, women, Hispanics, the elderly, African Americans, recent immigrants, young people, Native Americans, social security recipients, veterans, the poor and households with a median annual income of $48,000. A recent BusinessWeek article said payday lenders are now targeting more affluent neighborhoods.

    Analysts estimate that 19 million U.S. households used a payday loan in 2006.

    “Our industry has been accused of ‘targeting’ the military, minorities, women, immigrants, the elderly, the poor, the middle-class and now conservative Christians,” said Darrin Andersen, president of the Community Financial Services Association of America. “Who’s left? This is preposterous.”

    “The only common denominator is that our customers are people with steady sources of income and bank accounts who sometimes have unexpected or unbudgeted expenses that require cash between paychecks. Our customers are reasonable people who appreciate having an lower cost option that allows them to avoid bouncing checks or accruing late or overdraft protection fees,” Andersen added.

    “While critics of the industry assign labels to our customers in an attempt to further their political agendas, the fact is that we provide services to a broad cross section of Americans because there is a broad demand for the financial service we provide,” said Andersen. “Our customers represent a broad demographic segment and cannot be grouped based on race, sex or religion.”

  116. lmedsker says:

    Sharing the payday lending industry response to the study…

    NEWS FLASH: Payday Lending Industry Apparently Targets Everyone
    Research Demonstrates Payday Lending Customers Can’t be Labeled

    WASHINGTON, DC – Payday lenders called a new study that claims to have “conclusive proof that conservative Christian Americans are a prime demographic target of the payday lending industry” preposterous.

    This study, “Usury Law and the Christian Right,” comes on the heels of prior allegations that payday lenders locate in communities with high populations of military, women, Hispanics, the elderly, African Americans, recent immigrants, young people, Native Americans, social security recipients, veterans, the poor and households with a median annual income of $48,000. A recent BusinessWeek article said payday lenders are now targeting more affluent neighborhoods.

    Analysts estimate that 19 million U.S. households used a payday loan in 2006.

    “Our industry has been accused of ‘targeting’ the military, minorities, women, immigrants, the elderly, the poor, the middle-class and now conservative Christians,” said Darrin Andersen, president of the Community Financial Services Association of America. “Who’s left? This is preposterous.”

    “The only common denominator is that our customers are people with steady sources of income and bank accounts who sometimes have unexpected or unbudgeted expenses that require cash between paychecks. Our customers are reasonable people who appreciate having an lower cost option that allows them to avoid bouncing checks or accruing late or overdraft protection fees,” Andersen added.

    “While critics of the industry assign labels to our customers in an attempt to further their political agendas, the fact is that we provide services to a broad cross section of Americans because there is a broad demand for the financial service we provide,” said Andersen. “Our customers represent a broad demographic segment and cannot be grouped based on race, sex or religion.”

    Andersen said the recent report by Christopher Peterson and Steven Graves, which purports to show that payday advance businesses target Christians, was little more than, “advocacy masquerading as scholarship,” and questioned what accusations the industry might face next from opponents of consumer choice in financial services.

    The report’s methodology, logic and conclusions were also called into question. Rather than empirically identifying people of faith, it constructs a ‘Christian Power Index,’ compares the number of payday advance locations with coffee shops and fast food restaurants, relies on ‘Bible Belt’ stereotypes and fails to account for the popularity of payday advances in states that do not fit the authors’ preconceived conclusion, including California, Ohio, Montana and elsewhere.

    Andersen said that research shows payday advance customers to be middle-income, educated, working families, more than half earning between $25,000 and $50,000 annually, 58 percent having attended college, and one in five having a bachelor’s degree. He added that payday advance customers are not the “un-banked”, as 100% have a checking account at a credit union or bank, but turn to payday lenders for low dollar short-term credit needs.

  117. CyberSkull says:

    They’re reaping what the money changers sowed.