ORCID Identifier(s)


Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


Social Work

First Advisor

Rebecca L Hegar


Payday lending has been a topic of great debate in the US and other developed countries. While some argue that lenders prey on low income and minority populations and trap them in a cycle of debt, others maintain that payday loans fulfill an otherwise unmet need for those in unexpected financial distress. Furthermore, although a consensus has not yet been reached concerning why, there exists a population of payday loan borrowers who continue to roll over short-term loans in an effort to solve their long-term financial problems. This is of particular concern to the field of social work because as this population becomes increasingly impoverished, they will be at greater risk for ill-health, loss of housing, and loss of employment. Further, as social workers, we have a responsibility to recognize social injustices when they arise and to pursue changes to rectify them. This thesis applies methods of social problem analysis and value-critical analysis to examine the problem of economic dependence as it intersects with payday lending practices and to analyze the policies and programs of three states with differing underlying theoretical assumptions about human behavior and the role of state regulation: Montana, Florida, and Wisconsin. Definitions, relevant human behavior theories, a review of the literature, and a historical overview of policy governing payday lending are presented as part of the initial social problem analysis. Value-critical analysis continues as the author describes policy or program elements, then critically evaluates all of the parts, individually and as a whole, to identify any shortcomings, inconsistencies in logic, or ambiguities in everyday policy or program operations (Chambers & Bonk, 2013). The thesis concludes with a summary of conclusions from the analysis and discussion of implications for future policies targeting payday lending. The policy analysis supports the following conclusions. The regulation analyzed in Montana lacks a coherent program design and is unlikely to meet its goal of protecting citizens from short-term, high-rate loans due its inconsistency in regulations of payday loans as compared to other high-rate loans available in the state. Florida’s regulation describes an intent to decrease residents’ reliance on payday loans, but instead provided avenues for the payday lending industry to flourish throughout the state and resulted in a steady increase in the number of unique payday loan borrowers and the number of loans taken per borrower year over year. The regulation in Florida also generates a significant amount of money for the state each year, which indicates an additional incentive to allow the industry’s continued growth. Due to Wisconsin’s lack of regulatory legislation, the solutions analyzed are two community-driven programs that were found to be strategically planned, with clear goals and measureable objectives. The Wisconsin programs are well designed, but may require more diversified funding in order to be sustainable. Future comparative analysis of regulatory and community-driven solutions is needed. Implications for future policy include expanding the scope from payday lending to the larger fringe-banking industry, providing a mechanism for lower-income families to build savings while paying off debt, and evaluating revenue-generating tools and measureable objectives for effectiveness in achieving overarching goals.


Payday lending, Predatory lending, Fringe banking, CDFI, Regulation, Policy, Value-critical


Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Work


Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington

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Social Work Commons