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This Article reviews the literature on the debate regarding the causal relationship between filing for bankruptcy and the use of payday loans but does not weigh in on the subject. Rather, it uses these studies, as well as a general discussion of bankruptcy filing and payday loans, as a backdrop for analyzing new data regarding the correlation between bankruptcy filing and the use of payday loans. This Article reports on an empirical study conducted in the state of New Mexico that measures rates of payday loan use among bankruptcy debtors from a large sample of publicly available bankruptcy data. Part I of this Article discusses the payday loan industry, its business model, how the loans work, and who the likely payday lending customer is. Part II reviews the current literature regarding the connection between payday loans and bankruptcy, and suggests some ways in which the existing literature falls short of fully answering the question of whether payday lending causes bankruptcy filing. Part III describes the new empirical study from New Mexico. This Article describes the method used to conduct this study as well as its results. In summary, our data show that from 2007 to 2009, 18.9 percent of bankruptcy debtors in New Mexico reported using payday loans. Compared to the use of payday loans reported in other studies among the general population, as well as past studies on payday loan use among bankruptcy debtors, this rate of usage is extremely high. Moreover, the correlation between bankruptcy and payday loans seems to be getting stronger, as the use of these loan products appears to be growing. We find that almost double the percentage of bankruptcy debtors reported using payday loans from 2007 to 2009, than from 2000 to 2002. Part IV of this Article concludes that while one cannot be certain that there is a causal connection between filing for bankruptcy and using payday or other short-term loans, there is a strong correlation between bankruptcy filing and payday loan use. If the increasing use of payday loans is seen as a problem, we conclude that the problem appears to be growing, despite efforts by states to cut down on the use of these loans and to curb the use of multiple loans at one time. In fact, the usage of multiple payday loans at one time also has increased drastically, as recent bankruptcy debtors, whether individuals or families, report using far more of these types of loans simultaneously than in the past. All of this indicates that the use of multiple loans at one time is increasing, a problem states are grappling with but apparently are not solving.

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Southwestern University Law Journal



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