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Women More Likely to Take Out Payday Loans

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Bonnie faces a lot of problems. She is disabled and depressed, with a heart problem and high blood pressure. In the middle of it all, she’s getting hounded with calls about her payday loans.

“I have some payday loans I can not pay. They are calling every day with threats, and they are calling my daughter every day,” a Credit.com reader named Bonnie wrote to us recently. Given all her other problems, “This is not helping me at all. Please help me.”

Women like Bonnie have dominated the Presidential campaign this week as Mitt Romney and Barack Obama trade barbs on who will do a better job helping women. Gov. Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan have stressed in campaign events that a weak economy under President Obama has forced poverty rates among women to a 17-year high. Meanwhile, the President argues that his support for child care tax credits and equal pay legislation make him the better choice.

As the debate over women in the economy rages, a little report from the attorney general of Colorado puts the issue is stark relief. According to the report, women make up a majority of payday loan customers, year after year. In 2011, 53 percent of all payday loans were taken out by women, compared to 47 percent by men. At the height of the Great Recession, the disparity was even larger. More than 55 percent of payday loan customers were women in 2008, and 45 percent were men.

That could pose problems for some, since people who borrow from payday lenders face annual interest rates of up to 45 percent, the cap set by Colorado law. When added to service and finance charges, that leaves the average payday loan borrower paying $235.97 on an average loan of $330.

It’s also a problem, consumer advocates say, because women who borrow from payday lenders in Colorado earn about $2,300 a month in gross income, or $330 less than the average man, according to the report.

“When caught in the payday lending trap, these women and their families are stripped of their hard-earned income at the time they need it the most, resulting in real hardships for their families,” according to a survey of research on payday loans by the Center for Responsible Lending.

While the issue of payday lending has not figured prominently in this year’s election cycle, Barack Obama did talk about it during the 2008 race, when he promised “to cap outlandish interest rates on payday loans and to improve disclosure,” according to Politifact.com. While no such cap has been proposed by his administration, Obama did push for creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is taking its first steps toward writing rules that would police behavior by the largest payday lenders.

Since many of the bureau’s first proposed rules regarding mortgages and credit cards concerned improved transparency about the products’ terms, many observers believe that rules on payday lenders would also be focused on giving consumers better access to information.

Mitt Romney has promised to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act, which created the consumer bureau, and he has blasted the bureau as “perhaps the most powerful and unaccountable bureaucracy in the history of our nation.” Romney appeared to soften his stance toward increased financial regulation the during the first Presidential debate, however, making it unclear what changes he hopes to make regarding payday loan regulations, if any. He would “repeal and replace” Dodd-Frank, Romney said during the debate. “You have to have regulation,” Romney said. “And there’s some parts of Dodd-Frank that make all the sense in the world. You need transparency….”

Image: PinkMoose, via Flickr

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