When it comes to getting cash to make ends meet, many Americans don’t take their business to the local bank. Instead, they rely on alternative financial systems such as check cashing stores and payday lenders. Despite high interest rates and sometimes exorbitant fees, these services fill a vital need for those living paycheck to paycheck, and who, for a variety of reasons, distrust banks.
In The Unbanking of America: How the New Middle Class Survives, Lisa Servon offers an eye-opening look at how our mainstream banking and credit systems have failed to meet the needs of many lower and middle income Americans -- and how alternative services such as payday lenders are now filling the void. Along with researching the issues, Dr. Servon worked as a teller at a check cashing store and as a loan collector for a payday lender, and she introduces us to customers from a variety of backgrounds who rely on these services to survive. The Unbanking of America is now out in paperback.
Dr. Servon is a professor of city planning at the University of Pennsylvania and a former dean at The New School in New York City. She is the author of several other books, including Bridging the Digital Divide, and her work on consumer financial services has been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, The New Yorker, among many others.