My latest article for the Guardian is on the explosion of payday lending, which is a huge problem in Missouri and in the U.S. in general:
I am driving down Route 180 in St Louis, Missouri, past empty plazas and vacant shops, down a stretch of road that terminates in an abandoned mall. Yet on this road are promises of wealth: “Loans Up to $10,000” says one sign, “Advances up to $500” says another. In contrast to the faded retailers surrounding them, these new storefronts are cheerful, decorated with pictures of flowers or gold or the American flag.
This is the alternative economy of payday loans, which has sprung up where the old economy has died.
In St Louis, a payday loan is something with which you are either intimately familiar or completely oblivious. The locations of payday loan outlets correspond to income: the lower the regional income, the more payday loan centers you will find. The 249 payday lenders in the St Louis metro area are almost entirely absent from wealthy or middle class areas. The outlets supply small loans – usually under $500 – at exorbitant interest rates to be paid off, ideally, with one’s next paycheck.
“You only see them in poor neighborhoods,” says Tishaura Jones, the treasurer of St Louis and an active campaigner to regulate the industry. “They target people who don’t have access to normal banking services or who have low credit scores. It’s very intentional.”
Read the full article The US payday loans crisis: borrow $100 to make ends meet, owe 36 times that sum at the Guardian