Face to Face with Inequality

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Pawn Shop Financial Services

The New York Times DealBook reports that the number of pawn shops in the U.S. increased from 6400 in 2007 to 10,000 late last year. Not only do they offer small-dollar loans to those desperate enough for cash to put their prized possessions in hock, they are also offering financial services to people whom the banks no longer feel the wish to serve. Check cashing. Pre-paid debit cards. Money orders. All offered at a price, of course. It is just one more way in which the haves get sorted from the have-nots.

Just how does it make sense that poor people pay for services that the wealthy get for free?