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

  • Mark L. Hoekstra
  • Scott Hankins
  • Paige Marta Skiba
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    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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    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. Thaler, Richard H, 1990. "Saving, Fungibility, and Mental Accounts," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 193-205, Winter.
    2. Ted O'Donoghue and Matthew Rabin ., 1997. "Doing It Now or Later," Economics Working Papers 97-253, University of California at Berkeley.
    3. Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003. "Is there a Daily Discount Rate? Evidence from the Food Stamp Nutrition Cycle," Microeconomics 0304005, EconWPA, revised 21 Apr 2003.
    4. S. Dellavigna., 2011. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 4.
    5. 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.
    6. Sumit Agarwal & Chunlin Liu & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2007. "The reaction of consumer spending and debt to tax rebates – evidence from consumer credit data," Working Paper Series WP-07-10, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. Mikael Lindahl, 2005. "Estimating the Effect of Income on Health and Mortality Using Lottery Prizes as an Exogenous Source of Variation in Income," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(1).
    10. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2007. "Financial literacy and retirement preparedness: Evidence and implications for financial education programs," CFS Working Paper Series 2007/15, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
    11. 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.
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