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]