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Estimating the Effect of Unearned Income on Labor Supply, Earnings, Savings, and Consumption: Evidence from a Survey of Lottery Players

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  • Guido W. Imbens
  • Donald B. Rubin
  • Bruce Sacerdote

Abstract

Knowledge of the effect of unearned income on economic behavior of individuals in general, and on labor supply in particular, is of great importance to policy makers. Estimation of income effects, however, is a difficult problem because income is not randomly assigned and exogenous changes in income are difficult to identify. Here we exploit the randomized assignment of large amounts of money over long periods of time through lotteries. We carried out a survey of people who played the lottery in the mid-eighties and estimate the effect of lottery winnings on their subsequent earnings, labor supply, consumption, and savings. We find that winning a modest prize ($15,000 per year for twenty years) does not affect labor supply or earnings substantially. Winning such a prize does not considerably reduce savings. Winning a much larger prize ($80,000 rather than $15,000 per year) reduces labor supply as measured by hours, as well as participation and social security earnings; elasticities for hours and earnings are around -0.20 and for participation around -0.14. Winning a large versus modest amount also leads to increased expenditures on cars and larger home values, although mortgages values appear to increase by approximately the same amount. Winning $80,000 increases overall savings, although savings in retirement accounts are not significantly affected. The results do not vary much by gender, age, or prior employment status. There is some evidence that for those with zero earnings prior to winning the lottery there is a positive effect of winning a small prize on subsequent labor market participation.

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  • Guido W. Imbens & Donald B. Rubin & Bruce Sacerdote, 1999. "Estimating the Effect of Unearned Income on Labor Supply, Earnings, Savings, and Consumption: Evidence from a Survey of Lottery Players," NBER Working Papers 7001, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7001
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    5. V. Joseph Hotz & Guido W. Imbens & Julie H. Mortimer, 1999. "Predicting the Efficacy of Future Training Programs Using Past Experiences," NBER Technical Working Papers 0238, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Andrew V. Stephenson & Amanda Wilsker, 2016. "Consumption Effects of Foreign Remittances in Jamaica," International Advances in Economic Research, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 22(3), pages 309-320, August.
    7. Mishra, Ashok K. & Chang, Hung-Hao, 2012. "Can off farm employment affect the privatization of social safety net? The case of self-employed farm households," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 94-101.
    8. 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.
    9. Kearney, Melissa Schettini, 2005. "State lotteries and consumer behavior," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(11-12), pages 2269-2299, December.
    10. Raj Chetty, 2012. "Bounds on Elasticities With Optimization Frictions: A Synthesis of Micro and Macro Evidence on Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 80(3), pages 969-1018, May.
    11. Andrew Henley, 2004. "House Price Shocks, Windfall Gains and Hours of Work: British Evidence," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 66(4), pages 439-456, September.
    12. Alexander Gelber & Timothy J. Moore & Alexander Strand, 2017. "The Effect of Disability Insurance Payments on Beneficiaries' Earnings," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 229-261, August.
    13. Ing-Haw Cheng & Eric French, 2000. "The effect of the run-up in the stock market on labor supply," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, vol. 25(Q IV), pages 48-65.
    14. James M. Poterba, 2000. "Stock Market Wealth and Consumption," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(2), pages 99-118, Spring.
    15. Michael D. Hurd & Monika Reti & Susann Rohwedder, 2009. "The Effect of Large Capital Gains or Losses on Retirement," NBER Chapters, in: Developments in the Economics of Aging, pages 127-163, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Ugo Colombino, 2015. "Five Crossroads on the Way to Basic Income. An Italian Tour," Italian Economic Journal: A Continuation of Rivista Italiana degli Economisti and Giornale degli Economisti, Springer;Società Italiana degli Economisti (Italian Economic Association), vol. 1(3), pages 353-389, November.
    17. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan & Douglas Miller, 2003. "Public Policy and Extended Families: Evidence from Pensions in South Africa," The World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 17(1), pages 27-50, June.
    18. Monica Paiella, 2009. "The Stock Market, Housing And Consumer Spending: A Survey Of The Evidence On Wealth Effects," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 23(5), pages 947-973, December.
    19. Alisa C. Lewin & Eric Maurin, 2005. "The Effect of Family Size on Incentive Effects of Welfare Transfers in Two-Parent Families," Evaluation Review, , vol. 29(6), pages 507-529, December.
    20. Vighneswara Swamy, 2022. "Financial wealth effects and consumption expenditure," International Journal of Finance & Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(2), pages 1933-1946, April.
    21. Shankar Ghimire & Kul Prasad Kapri, 2020. "Does the Source of Remittance Matter? Differentiated Effects of Earned and Unearned Remittances on Agricultural Productivity," Economies, MDPI, vol. 8(1), pages 1-15, January.
    22. Courtney C. Coile, 2015. "Economic Determinants Of Workers’ Retirement Decisions," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(4), pages 830-853, September.
    23. Tao Gong, 2009. "Do Parental Transfers Reduce Youths' Incentives to Work?," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 23(4), pages 653-676, December.
    24. de Carvalho Filho, Irineu Evangelista, 2008. "Old-age benefits and retirement decisions of rural elderly in Brazil," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(1), pages 129-146, April.
    25. Purvi Sevak, 2002. "Wealth Shocks and Retirement Timing: Evidence from the Nineties," Working Papers wp027, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.

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