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Random Riches - Mark LUTTER

Whythe Poor Play the Lottery. Sociologica Approaches to Explaining Class-based Lottery Play

Why do the poor spend more on lottery tickets than their wealthier and better educated peers? While sociologists generally agree that there is an inverse relationship between socioeconomic position and patterns of lottery play, there is debate on whether the poor maintain a culture which leads them to gambling, or whether structural factors such as disadvantaged socioeconomic conditions and network ties are critical in explaining gambling patterns among the lower classes. Using survey data from a nationwide probability sample, this paper tests structural, cultural, and network approaches to explain why the poor play the lottery. While controlling for cognitive bias theory, results show that structural factors such as networks, educational attainment and self-perceived social deprivation both have strong effects, whereas culture plays a much lesser role. Although lottery players demonstrate fatalistic value orientations, it is not a lack of a Protestant work ethic that makes the poor spend proportionally more on lottery tickets. These findings generally point to the importance of social structures in explaining lottery gambling.

Mark LUTTER
is a sociologist at the Cologne Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies. In 2010, he published his comparative study “Märkte für Träume. Die Soziologie des Lottospiels”.