Payday Lending Regulation and the Demand for Alternative Financial Services
In this paper we estimate the net benefit of regulatory restrictions on the supply of fringe credit products. Our estimation measures the effect of strict regulation and prohibition of one such product—payday loans—on demand for another product—refund anticipation loans (RALs). Using a policy discontinuity at state border approach with zip-code-level panel data, we find an economically and statistically significant negative effect of strict regulation of payday loans on demand for RALs. A state ban on payday lending results in about five percent reduction in demand for RALs. We interpret this effect as evidence that the behavioral component is stronger than the rational-strategic component of demand for payday loans, indicating that strict regulation of payday loans may benefit households on net. We conclude with a discussion of implications for policy.