How the Lottery Targets Low-Income Minorities


A lottery is a game in which people place a stake on a random drawing for a prize. Many states run lotteries, and the proceeds help state coffers. But there’s more to the story than that, and studies show that lotteries target low-income people and minorities. And that’s not good for society.

Whether they’re buying one ticket when the jackpot is huge or filling out their weekly numbers, millions of Americans play the lottery every week. But the odds are long, and if you’re not winning, it can be discouraging. Vox’s Alvin Chang looked at the numbers for Connecticut, where a lottery is based, and found that tickets are disproportionately bought in zip codes with high concentrations of low-income people and minorities. Moreover, the percentage of people who actually win is relatively small, with the bulk of money coming from the top 20 to 30 percent of players.

While most people play to dream of the day they’ll hit it big, there are some who make it a full-time career. And while the perks are undeniable, the drawbacks can be severe. Some winners have been kidnapped, shot, or killed, and others have committed suicide after a windfall. Others have gone broke or bankrupt. Still, some have been successful in leveraging their winnings to start businesses or invest in other ways. But these stories also serve as cautionary tales that, while winning the lottery can be life-changing, it’s not always for the better.

Some states have resisted the temptation to run their own lottery, but the vast majority now do so. Only Alabama, Utah, Mississippi, and Nevada don’t, and that’s mostly for fiscal reasons. The remaining 46 run multi-state lotteries that offer a variety of prizes.

A lottery involves a pool of tickets or their counterfoils that are shuffled and then drawn at random to select the winner(s). The process is usually overseen by a third party, which may be an independent organization or a member of a group of organizations such as the Association of National Lottery Operators. In recent years, computer systems have been used to ensure that the results are truly random and that there are no biases or other irregularities.

Lottery winners must pay taxes on their winnings. In the US, these are state income taxes, but there are also local tax obligations. Some states withhold the tax from the check, while others don’t. In any case, it’s important to consider taxes when budgeting for the big payday. But there are also other expenses to consider, such as the cost of a crack team of helpers that can manage your finances, pay down debts, set up college savings accounts and diversify your investments. And of course, you’ll have to figure out how to spend all that cash. This is where a little research can go a long way to helping you avoid the pitfalls that can come with sudden wealth.