Rethinking the demand and supply matching: How revolving accounts have turned into a credit dedicated to low income populations in France
Sociology Clersé Villeneuve d'Ascq, France
In France, revolving accounts1 are a very popular form of credit. It represents more than 20% of the outstanding consumer credit and it is particularly attractive to low income population. Yet, its investigators did not mean such destiny when they introduced it in France in the sixties. Its aim was only to facilitate sales in some mass retail shops. What had happened in the meantime? And why did the transformation into a lower class credit turn out to be extremely profitable?
In this presentation, I show how historically this credit happened to be dedicated to low income populations. And I explain why these populations are attacked by such supplies: it is while seeking ?disembedded? trade relations that these households have subscribed to such credit, thus escaping the social stigma attached to other ways of obtaining fund.
Describing this evolution, I distinguish myself from approaches that are already seen as classical in economic sociology. More precisely, I show that Bourdieu's « structural homology » does not fit to the revolving credit market. This scheme cannot explain why lower class people run to get a product that was not done for them. Then, after authors such as White (White, 1981) or Garcia-Parpet (Garcia-Parpet, 2007), I explain how supply is built by the effects of differentiation strategy from each firm. But I underline all the same that it is the uses of this credit by the consumers who divert its meaning that make revolving credit a profitable activity.
This research is based on my PhD dissertation fieldwork (2005-2008). More than forty top executives of credit firms were interviewed, two months of in situ observations have been done and credit firms? archives have been analyzed. The presentation can be given either in English or in Portuguese.
1A revolving account is a type of debt account where the outstanding balance does not have to be paid in full every month by the borrower to the lender. In France, revolving accounts are often supplied by specific credit firms that are different from deposit banks where households have their personal bank account.