Lottery winners: The myth and reality


This paper is based on a study of 576 lottery winners from 12 states. Respondents to a mailed questionnaire included winners of sums ranging from $50,000 to millions. The data indicate that popular myths and stereotypes about winners were inaccurate. Specifically, winners came from various education and employment backgrounds and they were clustered in the higher income categories than the general population indicating that lotteries might not be as regressive as popularly believed. Winners were older than the general population and more often male (60 versus 40%). There was significant association between the amount a person won and his or her work behavior. Individuals with psychologically and financially rewarding jobs continued working regardless of the amount they won, while people who worked in low paying semi-skilled and unskilled jobs were far more likely to quit the labor force. Contrary to popular beliefs, winners did not engage in lavish spending sprees and instead gave large amounts of their winnings to their children and their churches. The most common expenditures were for houses, automobiles and trips. It was found that overall, winners were well-adjusterd, secure and generally happy from the experience.

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Correspondence to H. Roy Kaplan Ph.D.

Additional information

This study was funded by a grant from the Institute for Socioeconomic Studies in White Plains, New York.

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Kaplan, H.R. Lottery winners: The myth and reality. J Gambling Stud 3, 168–178 (1987).

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  • General Population
  • Labor Force
  • High Income
  • Work Behavior
  • Income Category