Fringe Borrowing in Norway: Who Borrows and Why?

howard karger social work

Dr. Howard Karger of the School of Social Work received a Fulbright Research Scholar award that will be housed at OsloMet University in Oslo, Norway.

Relatively few studies have examined the financial sector that serves those experiencing economic hardship, including the Norwegian alternative financial sector. This study hopes to examine the experiences and reasons why some Norwegians use fringe financial services.

The research project will investigate the lending practices of Norway’s high interest financial services and the corollary consumer experiences around accessing and paying for those services. The research will explore the growth in consumer lending in the wider context of economic change in Norway, such as rising personal debt levels, and inflationary pressures exceeding wage growth. The study will begin by examining how usury or high interest loans are regulated nationally in Norway and the U.S. (e.g., Consumer Financial Protection Bureau).

There is only a limited corpus of work in Norway around predatory lending, and there are no comparative studies that examine the similar or dissimilar characteristics of Norwegian and U.S. fringe economy consumers. This study will be partly based on my book, Shortchanged: Life and Debt in the Fringe Economy, which won the Independent Book Publishers Award in Finance/Investment/ Economics.

I hope to survey the experiences and reasons that Norwegians use very high interest financial services and investigate whether they have similar socioeconomic characteristics and have similar reasons for borrowing as their U.S. counterparts.

Data collection will consist of interviews with 30+/- fringe economy borrowers. Referrals will be made by social service agencies, churches, voluntary organizations, and other service providers. If they are amenable, the study will also interview 5+/- fringe lenders on their business model and how they view their clients. The output from this study will result articles written for publication in U.S. and international journals.