Thursday, November 14, 2013
Sheila Foster (Fordham) has posted Breaking Up Payday: Anti-Agglomeration Zoning and Consumer Welfare, 75 Ohio St. L.J. ___ (forthcoming 2014). Here's the abstract:
In the last decade, dozens of local governments have enacted zoning ordinances designed to limit the concentration of payday lenders and other alternative financial services providers (AFSPs), such as check-cashing businesses and auto title loan shops, in their communities. The main impetus for these ordinances is to shield economically vulnerable residents from the industry’s lending practices in the absence of sufficiently aggressive federal and state consumer protection regulation. This Essay casts considerable doubt on whether zoning is the appropriate regulatory tool to achieve the consumer protection and welfare goals animating these ordinances. The author’s analysis of the aftermath of payday lending zoning restrictions in one state demonstrates that while such laws may play a role in reducing the number of payday lenders in the immediate urban area, they do not shield consumers from these lenders altogether. Further, the economic literature on agglomeration economies suggests that there are costs to consumer welfare from limiting or breaking up retail agglomerations. Such “anti-agglomeration” zoning restrictions can prevent consumers from capturing the benefits of the price and product competition that result from retail agglomerations. This Essay concludes that if the main impetus behind anti-agglomeration zoning measures is to protect local residents from the high interest rates and loan terms associated with the payday industry, it might be that these measures are working against their intended purpose and actually harming consumers who lack viable financial services alternatives. As such, in weighing the costs and benefits of payday lender agglomeration, lawmakers should consider more carefully the effects of anti-agglomeration zoning measures on consumer welfare.
Sheila has written terrific articles on social capital and urban geography. I'm glad to see her confront, as a land use regulation problem, activities identified as detrimental to social capital and explore some of the same strategies used by communities to respond to the marketing of pornography.