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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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    Cited by:

    1. Adam Looney & Monica Singhal, 2005. "The effect of anticipated tax changes on intertemporal labor supply and the realization of taxable income," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2005-44, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    2. Louis Kaplow, 2000. "A Framework for Assessing Estate and Gift Taxation," NBER Working Papers 7775, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Pizer, William & Imbens, Guido, 2000. "The Analysis of Randomized Experiments with Missing Data," Discussion Papers dp-00-19, Resources For the Future.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. Kearney, Melissa Schettini, 2005. "State lotteries and consumer behavior," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(11-12), pages 2269-2299, December.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. 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, issue Q IV, pages 48-65.
    12. James M. Poterba, 2000. "Stock Market Wealth and Consumption," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(2), pages 99-118, Spring.
    13. 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.
    14. 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;SocietĂ  Italiana degli Economisti (Italian Economic Association), vol. 1(3), pages 353-389, November.
    15. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan & Douglas Miller, 2003. "Public Policy and Extended Families: Evidence from Pensions in South Africa," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 17(1), pages 27-50, June.
    16. Courtney C. Coile, 2015. "Economic Determinants Of Workers’ Retirement Decisions," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(4), pages 830-853, September.
    17. Tao Gong, 2009. "Do Parental Transfers Reduce Youths' Incentives to Work?," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 23(4), pages 653-676, December.
    18. Jonathan A. Schwabish, 2005. "Regulating Underground Industry: An Economic Analysis of Sports Betting," New York Economic Review, New York State Economics Association (NYSEA), vol. 36(1), pages 65-77.
    19. 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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