The Fascinating Difference Between How Rich People And Poor People Play The Lottery

Does it seem like this massive Mega-Millions jackpot is attracting a lot of Lottery players that you wouldn’t normally expect?

It’s not an accident.

In a 2002 Senior honours Thesis at Harvard titled: Dreaming Big: Why Do People Play the Powerball?, Emily Oster produced these two great charts.

The first looks at per-capita sales of lottery tickets in poor neighborhoods. Each dot represents one drawing.


Photo: Emily Oster

The second look at the same jackpots, but instead focuses on per-capita sales in rich neighborhoods.


Photo: Emily Oster

The difference?

It is clear from these graphs that the poorest zip codes purchase more tickets at the lowest jackpot levels. However, at the highest jackpots the sales are about the same (slightly over $16 per capita in the poorest zip codes and around $17 per capita in the richest).

Basically, the poor play all the lotteries. The rich just go for the big ones, but when the big ones happen, they do it at the same level as the poor.

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