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Gamblers as personal finance activists


  • Geng Li


Gambling behavior can serve as an informative indicator of important household heterogeneity that is difficult to observe directly in data. We present, to the best of our knowledge, the first comprehensive study of the consumption and personal finance of gamblers using a nationwide representative household survey. We find that consumers are more likely to gamble when income is higher than its normal level predicted by observable characteristics, and that nongambling expenditures tend to increase with gambling activities. In addition, gamblers are more likely to concurrently have various types of debt and assets, assuming a more active position on household balance sheets. However, gamblers do not necessarily have a higher net worth than comparable nongamblers. Gamblers also tend to engage in health-wise risky behaviors, such as smoking and heavy drinking, while paying out-of-pocket on life and health insurance. We present extensive evidence that such behavior differences observed in the data are not primarily due to different degrees of careless reporting to the survey. Rather, we argue that our findings are consistent with the notion that certain consumers, namely, the active participants in personal finance markets, take on gambling as a form of entertainment.

Suggested Citation

  • Geng Li, 2012. "Gamblers as personal finance activists," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2012-18, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2012-18

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Irina A. Telyukova, 2013. "Household Need for Liquidity and the Credit Card Debt Puzzle," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(3), pages 1148-1177.
    2. Richard E. Quandt, 1986. "Betting and Equilibrium," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(1), pages 201-207.
    3. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2003. "Wealth Accumulation and the Propensity to Plan," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1007-1047.
    4. Francisco Gomes & Alexander Michaelides, 2005. "Optimal Life-Cycle Asset Allocation: Understanding the Empirical Evidence," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 60(2), pages 869-904, April.
    5. Erik Hurst & Geng Li & Benjamin Pugsley, 2014. "Are Household Surveys Like Tax Forms? Evidence from Income Underreporting of the Self-Employed," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 96(1), pages 19-33, March.
    6. Brian C. Cadena & Benjamin J. Keys, 2015. "Human Capital and the Lifetime Costs of Impatience," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(3), pages 126-153, August.
    7. Li, Geng & Smith, Paul A., 2010. "401(K) LOANS and HOUSEHOLD BALANCE SHEETS," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 63(3), pages 479-508, September.
    8. Kathleen W. Johnson & Geng Li, 2010. "The Debt-Payment-to-Income Ratio as an Indicator of Borrowing Constraints: Evidence from Two Household Surveys," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 42(7), pages 1373-1390, October.
    9. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2002. "Wealth Accumulation and the Propensity to Plan," NBER Working Papers 8920, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pierre Cahuc & Stéphane Carcillo, 2012. "Les conséquences des allégements généraux de cotisations patronales sur les bas salaires," Revue française d'économie, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 0(2), pages 19-61.

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