Everyone Loves the Lottery

Mar 06, 2015
Behavioral Finance, Personal Finance, Purchase Decisions, Article

I wrote our NGPF unit on Financial Pitfalls, and far and away my favorite lesson was all about the lottery. Everyone knows the basics: Millions of Americans buy tickets, most of the time no one wins, and then all of a sudden five coworkers from a factory in middle-America strike it big. WAHOO! And everyone else wins $0 but will inevitably try again next time the Mega Millions is off the charts.

But as I researched, I found that the lottery is so much more interesting for so many reasons. I’m going to resist the urge to write every National Reading Month post about the lottery, but here’s one to get us started…

Why You Keep Playing the Lottery

What is it? This article has lottery statistics, psychology research, expert opinions, and even a social justice piece, all in 800 words.

Why is it cool? Rather than preaching how foolish it is to play the lottery, the author cites resources about why people play the lottery (because we want to be part of the popular group and we love a Cinderella story). It also outlines a cool psychology study from CMU in which people were given $5 and varying constraints on how they could choose to play the lottery (or not). It’s an easy read but your teenage students will have a lot to think about.

Questions I Might Ask:

  1. For comprehension:
    • According to Professor Goldbart, what are the two key reasons people play?
    • Explain the Carnegie Mellon study in your own words.
  2. To extrapolate:
    • If lottery tickets cost $100 instead of $1 or $5, how do you think the number of tickets sold would change? How would the demographics of purchasers change?
    • If lottery tickets cost $10,000, do you think millionaires would play the lottery? Why or why not?
  3. To personally connect:
    • If your parent were going to buy a lottery ticket the next time the Mega Millions was huge, would you advise for or against it? Why?

Where is it in the NGPF collection? It’s resource 7 in “Playing the Lottery” in our Financial Pitfalls unit.

About the Author

Jessica Endlich

When I started working at Next Gen Personal Finance, it's as though my undergraduate degree in finance, followed by ten years as an educator in an NYC public high school, suddenly all made sense.