Payday loans: benefit, bargain, or burden?

race, income equityJoanne Jones-Rizzi, Vice President of Science, Equity, and EducationMay 9, 2020

What do payday loans have to do with science, and why is the Science Museum of Minnesota writing about them?

The Museum’s Statement of Equity and Inclusion says that we are actively working to undo systems of injustice and inequity. That’s because practicing inclusion results in better science—science that is informed by questions and solutions that are articulated at the intersection of science, equity, and education. Inclusion assures that all people gain an understanding of the world through science.

Desperate times leave many people with few or no choices. Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office has developed a useful resource explaining what payday loans are (found here) and how they entrap people in a cycle of borrowing money where seemingly no-strings-attached policies come with very high interest rates.

Systems designed to capitalize on people’s vulnerabilities, such as payday loans, readily exploit people through no fault of their own. The pandemic has increased economic stress within low-income households, Indigenous communities, and amongst people of color, and has disproportionality subjected these communities to predatory lenders and practices. Once people fall victim to this type of exploitation, it’s very difficult to break the cycle without owing more and more money.

At the Science Museum, we frame science within the contexts of equity and education. Science is a human endeavor, and we use scientific methodologies to understand the complexities of our changing world. Societal inequities during these current pandemic challenges are all around us. What kind of inequities do you see?