Paper on the Oldest Financial Institution

Paige Marta Skiba of Vanderbilt, Marieke Bos of Stockholm University - Swedish Institute for Social Research and Susan Carter of the United States Military Academy have written The Pawn Industry and Its Customers: The United States and Europe. Here's the abstract:

As humankind’s oldest financial institution, pawnbroking has served the financial needs of low-income families for centuries. Recently, and especially in the last five years, an increasing number of consumers have relied on pawnbrokers to help them meet daily financial needs. Seven percent of all U.S. and four percent of all Swedish households have used pawn credit at one time or another. Despite the general public’s increased interest in the pawn industry, evidenced by the popularity of reality television shows like “Pawn Stars” and “Hard Core Pawn,” economists have paid surprisingly little attention to the pawnbroking industry and pawnshop borrowers. We start by reviewing the history of pawn credit and the sparse economic literature on pawnbroking, and then present unique U.S. transaction data and Swedish register data to, first, show aggregate trends, and, second, shed light on the social and financial background of pawnshop borrowers and their behavior within the pawnbroking industry in both countries. We find that the pawnbroking industry and pawnshop borrowers are unexpectedly similar in the United States and Sweden.