Masters Theses

Orcid ID


Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Stephanie Bohon

Committee Members

Stephainie Bohon, Jon Shefner, Kasey Henricks, Arthur Scarritt


This thesis is a study of customers at a rent-to-own (RTO) firm in Boise, Idaho, where I worked and collected data for nearly three years. RTOs are companies that offer higher-end electronics, appliances, and furniture to customers on a contract where the consumer receives the product immediately and pays a (usually highly marked-up) price over time by making small weekly or monthly payments. While predatory lending practices have long been studied by scholars from various fields, very little work has focused on the rent-to-own industry, which may have unique differences from payday lending and other similar businesses. This thesis centers the voice of the customers. I argue that the RTO industry makes money primarily through what sociologists Seamster and Charron-Chénier call predatory inclusion. Primarily associated with loans for education and homes, predatory inclusion is when marginalized people are allowed access to goods, services, and opportunities generally associated with the middle-class but the benefits of that access are significantly undermined by the unequal conditions of repayment. Furthermore, I expanded the conceptual understanding of predatory inclusion theory in a novel way by connecting it with pecuniary emulation, showing how consumer culture in the United States generates fertile conditions for expanding the second precondition of predatory inclusion—the opportunity for predation.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."