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The Ticket to Easy Street? The Financial Consequences of Winning the Lottery

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  • Mark L. Hoekstra
  • Scott Hankins
  • Paige Marta Skiba
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    Abstract

    A fundamental question faced by policymakers is how best to help individuals who are in financial trouble. This paper examines the consequences of the most basic approach: giving people large cash transfers. To determine whether this prevents or merely postpones bankruptcy, we exploit a unique dataset of Florida Lottery winners linked to bankruptcy records. Results show that although recipients of $50,000 to $150,000 are 50 percent less likely to file for bankruptcy in the two years after winning relative to small winners, they are equally more likely to file three to five years afterward. Furthermore, bankruptcy records indicate that even though the median winner of a large cash prize could have paid off all of his unsecured debt or increased equity in new or existing assets, he chose not to do either. Consequently, although we cannot be sure other recipients of financial assistance would react in the same way lottery players did, our results do suggest that some skepticism regarding the long-term effect of cash transfers may be warranted.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by University of Pittsburgh, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 344.

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    Date of creation: Apr 2008
    Date of revision: Apr 2009
    Handle: RePEc:pit:wpaper:344

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    1. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia Mitchell, 2006. "Financial Literacy and Retirement Preparedness: Evidence and Implications for Financial Education Programs," Working Papers wp144, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    2. Melvin Stephens Jr., 2003. ""3rd of tha Month": Do Social Security Recipients Smooth Consumption Between Checks?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 406-422, March.
    3. S. Dellavigna., 2011. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 4.
    4. Sumit Agarwal & Chunlin Liu & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2007. "The Reaction of Consumer Spending and Debt to Tax Rebates-Evidence from Consumer Credit Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(6), pages 986-1019, December.
    5. Lindahl, Mikael, 2002. "Estimating the Effect of Income on Health and Mortality Using Lottery Prizes as Exogenous of Variation in Income," IZA Discussion Papers 442, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. O'Donoghue, Ted & Rabin, Matthew, 1997. "Doing It Now or Later," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt7t44m5b0, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
    7. Jonathan Guryan & Melissa S. Kearney, 2008. "Gambling at Lucky Stores: Empirical Evidence from State Lottery Sales," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 458-73, March.
    8. Shapiro, Jesse M., 2005. "Is there a daily discount rate? Evidence from the food stamp nutrition cycle," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 303-325, February.
    9. Guido W. Imbens & Donald B. Rubin & Bruce I. Sacerdote, 2001. "Estimating the Effect of Unearned Income on Labor Earnings, Savings, and Consumption: Evidence from a Survey of Lottery Players," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 778-794, September.
    10. Thaler, Richard H, 1990. "Saving, Fungibility, and Mental Accounts," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 193-205, Winter.
    11. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S Mitchelli, 2007. "Financial Literacy and Retirement Preparedness: Evidence and Implications for Financial Education," Business Economics, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 42(1), pages 35-44, January.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Lotteries and irrationality
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2009-01-22 15:08:34
    2. Don McNay: Bailouts Don't Work: The Lotto Winners Study
      by Don McNay in huffington post business on 2010-09-07 21:13:15
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    Cited by:
    1. Jay Zagorsky, 2013. "Do People Save or Spend Their Inheritances? Understanding What Happens to Inherited Wealth," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 34(1), pages 64-76, March.

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