Why poor people participate in lotteries. That is the title of the scientific report of a study. Such a title invites you to take a look.
Lotteries and research
There is a lot of research available about lotteries. A substantial part has been done or paid for by governments. Lotteries are, after all, the most popular games of chance. In any case, they have the most participants and the most money is spent on it.
Governments therefore earn a lot from the lotteries. The fiscal income from gambling tax is important. But also the so-called redistribution, the redistribution of tax revenue to, for example, people with a lower income.
Several studies into lotteries show that people with a low income spend a large part of their (net) income on lotteries. And they spend more money on lotteries than people with a higher income.
It is generally accepted that there is a relationship between a low income and participating in lotteries. The socio-economic position of the player in relation to lotteries has been demonstrated in many studies.
Why poor people participate in lotteries
Often those investigations were set up to look at a given around gambling addiction, tax revenue or the effects of gambling on society. The reasons that poor people take part in lotteries and thereby make a lot of bets are only occasionally included.
Why do poor people participate in lotteries? Why do they spend a lot of their income? And why do they spend much more on it than rich and better-educated peers? These questions were therefore hardly fully investigated. German researchers from the Max Planck Institute therefore went in search of the answers.
The researchers, Jens Beckert and Mark Lutter, sought answers to their questions from three perspectives. They looked at the socio-economic factors, the cultural environment and the influence of the network in which the player is located.
For their research, they first read several existing studies. They then used the data from a national survey in Germany.
When reading the various studies, they note that socio-economic data has hardly been used to investigate gambling behavior. Socio-economic concerns income, education and the like. There have been theories or suggestions made in these studies.
For example, economists regard lotteries as rational wealth. They state that a person from low and middle classes first pays their basic necessities (fixed costs, food, clothing, etc.). If money is left afterwards, a lottery ticket can then be purchased. This means they have a chance of high payouts for a relatively small amount. It is a rational choice for someone who has no other options or means to acquire substantial wealth.
Psychologists, on the other hand, consider participating in lotteries to be irrational. They find the signs of poor judgment, being able to make poor choices, and making mistakes in thinking. And that in turn is related to education level and knowledge. Someone with a low education is less able to estimate the dangers of gambling. They equate the difference between low and high incomes with differences in level of education.
People with a lower education might also have higher levels of stress and tension. Gambling is a more or less accepted way to channel that tension and frustration. Lotteries hardly require any knowledge and they can relax someone without too many disruptive consequences for society. You can daydream, briefly escape from reality and possibly also really change your financial position.
Lotteries can be an expression of personal beliefs and show how someone thinks or believes. For example about society. Beckert and Lutter found all kinds of opinions, insights and theories about this in the studies they read.
The Protestant environment, for example, proclaims virtues such as diligence, frugality and profitability. Gambling is seen as a waste. Participating in a lottery, or gambling in general, can therefore be an escape from the rationality of such a “cultural” fact. It gives the opportunity to lie across the cultural environment and to rely on fate and superstition.
A special cultural aspect, on the verge of socio-economic, is that lotteries give equal opportunities to everyone. Regardless of knowledge, belief, class, education or family background. That also makes lotteries attractive to people from lower classes.
The influence of the environment on gambling behavior has also been examined in many previous studies. However, hardly ever when participating in lotteries. The studies in which that did happen mainly see links with traditions.
For example, in Spain and Italy there is a lot of group purchases of lottery tickets by groups of friends, family or colleagues. This is not necessarily about winning money, but mainly about confirming the social group and friendship.
In most studies, the network of the player in lotteries is again mainly viewed from a social psychological perspective. The lottery ticket provides a shared experience and topic for discussion within the group. The attitude within the group towards lotteries is positive. And the chance of being stopped, even after substantial losses, is small because there is a chance that the group will fall apart.
So there are investigations, but they do not provide unequivocal answers or explanations to the questions. Why do poor people participate in lotteries? Why do they spend a lot of their income? And why do they spend much more on it than rich and better-educated peers?
Beckert and Lutter conclude that culture hardly plays a role. The environment does have a major influence, perhaps even the greatest influence on playing in a lottery. It probably also explains the larger expenses, because the group experience is important within the lower and middle classes.
But why do poor people participate in lotteries? Beckert and Lutter do not come to a real answer either. The economists from previous studies may be right. After all, it is true that participating in lotteries offers an advantageous, although very small, chance of a significant improvement in the financial position. Lotteries are a form of gambling that requires no further skills.
Gambling in general works for certain groups as an opportunity to escape reality, frustration and stress. However, it keeps the player away from more realistic ways to improve his own position, such as following a course, participating in politics. Beckert and Lutter mainly demonstrate that they pay more attention to this.
The research “why do poor people participate in lotteries?” By Jens Beckert and Mark Lutter (pdf)
Chance for the jackpot
The amount of the jackpot amount is repeated in every advertisement, a lottery is naturally happy to buy it. The chance that you have on that price is less often seen. Of course you can win a lottery, but the chance of a big prize is much smaller than you would expect. At the state lottery the chance of the jackpot is only 0.00000016%. Rounded out is 0.0%. We prefer to put our change in a nice video slot or visit a live casino for a few hands of blackjack.