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Title:Bringing "honest capital" to poor borrowers: The passage of the uniform small loan law, 1907-1930 PDF Logo
Authors:Carruthers, Bruce G.
Guinnane, Timothy
Lee, Yoonseok
Issue Date:2009
Series/Report no.:Center Discussion Paper, Economic Growth Center 971
Abstract:The Uniform Small Loan Law (USLL) was the Russell Sage Foundation's primary device for fighting what it viewed as the scourge of high-rate lending to poor people in the first half of the twentieth century. The USLL created a new class of lenders who could make small loans at interest rates exceeding those allowed for banks under the normal usury laws. About two-thirds of the states had passed the USLL by 1930. This paper describes the USLL and then uses econometric models to investigate the state characteristics that influenced the law's passage. We find that urbanization and state-level economic characteristics played significant roles. So did measures of the state's banking system. We find no evidence that party-political affiliations had any effect, which is consistent with the USLL's progressiveā€ character. Finally, we find little evidence that the passage of the USLL in one state made passage more likely in neighboring or similar states. If anything, the cross-state influences were negative. Our findings suggest that the Russell Sage Foundation only imperfectly understood the political economy of the USLL, and that a different overall approach might have produced a result closer to their aims.
Subjects:uniform law
small loans
consumer credit
usury laws
JEL:N21
N22
I38
G21
G28
K23
Document Type:Working Paper
Appears in Collections:Center Discussion Papers, Economic Growth Center (EGC), Yale University

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