MANN: And so, if you walked up to the counter and asked for a loan, they would hand you this sheet of paper and say, “If you’ll fill out this survey for us, we’ll give you $15 to $25,” I forget which one it was. And then I get the surveys sent to me and I can look at them.
Brian Melzer of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University found that payday loan users did suffer a reduction in their household financial situation, as the high costs of repeated rollover loans impacted their ability to pay recurring bills such as utilities and rent. This assumes a payday user will rollover their loan rather than repay it, which has been shown both by the FDIC and the Consumer Finance Protection bureau in large sample studies of payday consumers 
In California for example a payday lender can charge a 14-day APR of 459% for a $100 loan. Finance charges on these loans are also a significant factor for borrowers as the fees can range up to approximately $18 per $100 of loan.
DUBNER: Well, Christopher, that defense sounds, at least to me, like pretty weak sauce. I mean, the university writing center doesn’t have as much vested interest in the outcome of my writing as an industry group does for an academic paper about that industry, right?
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That does sound reasonable, doesn’t it? A typical credit-card rate is around 15 percent, maybe 20 or higher if you have bad credit. But to the payday-loan industry, a proposed cap of 36 percent is not reasonable at all.
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He seemed to have a better grasp on these latter schools, analogizing them to the apprenticeship programs he was promoting in his effort to create 400,000 high-paying infrastructure jobs. The implication, as he brushed aside one form of higher education and lauded another, was that he’d like to resuscitate short-term training opportunities and phase out community colleges in the name of workforce development.
Comparatively the profit margin of Starbucks for the measured time period was just over 9%, and comparison lenders had an average profit margin of 13.04%. These comparison lenders were mainstream companies: Capital One, GE Capital, HSBC, Money Tree, and American Express Credit.
At the turn of the 20th century, prominent physicians who were trying to understand where mental illness comes from seized on a new theory: autointoxication. Intestinal microbes, these doctors suggested, are actually dangerous to their human hosts. They have a way of inducing “fatigue, melancholia, and the neuroses,” as a historical article in the journal Gut Pathogens recounts.
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However, despite the tendency to characterize payday loan default rates as high, several researchers have noted that this is an artifact of the normal short term of the payday product, and that during the term of loans with longer periods there are frequently points where the borrower is in default and then becomes current again. Actual charge offs are no more frequent than with traditional forms of credit, as the majority of payday loans are rolled over into new loans repeatedly without any payment applied to the original principal.
The exponential growth of payday lending over the past few decades can be traced back to federal financial deregulation in the 1970s and 1980s. The very reason Trump installed Mulvaney…is because he is a de-regulator…. At the very least, this latest move is yet another wink and nod to financial predators that it’s open season on poor people, working families, and communities of color.
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Congress had been so concerned about the effects of payday loans that in 2006 it passed the Military Lending Act, which, among other things, capped the interest rate that payday lenders can charge active personnel and their dependents at 36 percent nationwide. So what happened next? You guessed it. A lot of the payday loan shops near military bases closed down.
On Thursday, Buzzfeed published a controversial internal Facebook memo titled “The Ugly.” It features Facebook Vice President Andrew Bosworth’s 2016 reflections on the company’s aggressive efforts to connect people—and their fraught implications.
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Poor credit or a limited credit history can make it difficult to find financing from traditional sources. You might not be able to get a credit card or buy a car without a credit score that meets minimum requirements. That can make it tough to handle emergencies.
Mobile wallet transfers are becoming more popular and require a special mobile wallet account. Depending on your lender, mobile wallet transfers can be done within one business day 7 days a week, and usually do not have an additional charge for the service.
And yet it is surprisingly difficult to condemn the business wholesale. Emergency credit can be a lifeline, after all. And while stories about the payday-lending industry’s individual victims are horrible, the research on its effect at a more macro level is limited and highly ambiguous. One study shows that payday lending makes local communities more resilient; another says it increases personal bankruptcies; and so on.
DEYOUNG: This is why price caps are a bad idea. Because if the solution was implemented as I suggest and, in fact, payday lenders lost some of their most profitable customers — because now we’re not getting that fee the 6th and 7th time from them — then the price would have to go up. And we’d let the market determine whether or not at that high price we still have folks wanting to use the product.
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DeYoung also argues that most payday borrowers know exactly what they’re getting into when they sign up; that they’re not unwitting and desperate people who are being preyed upon. He points to a key piece of research by Ronald Mann; that’s another co-author on the New York Fed blog post.
Payday loans are often advertised as a way of funding an unexpected ‘one-off expense’, like a car MOT. But the reality is four in ten people take them to pay for essentials like food and petrol – putting food on the table and getting to work.
Does a researcher who’s out to make a splash with some sexy finding necessarily operate with more bias than a researcher who’s operating out of pure intellectual curiosity? I don’t think that’s necessarily so. Like life itself, academic research is a case-by-case scenario.
The rule was fairly limited, compared with stricter regulations many states have adopted. The CFPB only required lenders to conduct “reasonable” checks on consumers’ financial capacity and avoid the worst forms of financial abuse. Currently, about 38 states allow for some form of payday lending, but some, like New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Arizona, have banned or limited the practice.
When you add up the benefits of online payday loans and weigh the alternatives, it’s clear that payday loans can be a good solution for short-term cash problems. Still, only you can decide if a payday loan is right for you. Before making a decision, be sure to consider whether you can afford to repay a payday loan and its fees on time.
ZINMAN: And in that study, in that data, I find evidence that payday borrowers in Oregon actually seemed to be harmed. They seemed to be worse off by having that access to payday loans taken away. And so that’s a study that supports the pro-payday loan camp.
Payday loan providers are typically small credit merchants with physical locations that allow onsite credit applications and approval. Some payday loan services may also be available through online lenders.
Fringe financial services is the label sometimes applied to payday lending and its close cousins, like installment lending and auto-title lending—services that provide quick cash to credit-strapped borrowers. It’s a euphemism, sure, but one that seems to aptly convey the dubiousness of the activity and the location of the customer outside the mainstream of American life.
“The control of man’s diet is readily accomplished, but mastery over his intestinal bacterial flora is not,” wrote a doctor named Bond Stow in the Medical Record Journal of Medicine and Surgery in 1914. “The innumerable examples of autointoxication that one sees in his daily walks in life is proof thereof … malaise, total lack of ambition so that every effort in life is a burden, mental depression often bordering upon melancholia.”
Even though their relationship starts with an actual emergency, as the book progresses, being emergency contacts starts to mean that they are each other’s default sounding board for the random stream-of-consciousness thoughts that cry out to be shared, even though they don’t need to be. Sam texts Penny asking for fashion advice; Penny texts Sam about how much she hates maraschino cherries. For the bulk of the book, Penny and Sam are not physically present with each other, but their relationship is built with the bricks of life’s minutiae, constructed line by line within the confines of their phones.
You do your best to ask as many questions as you can of the research and of the researchers themselves. You ask where the data comes from, whether it really means what they say it means, and you ask them to explain why they might be wrong, or compromised. You make the best judgment you can, and then you move forward and try to figure out how the research really matters. Because the whole idea of the research, presumably, is to help solve some larger problem.