Poor Spend 9% of Income on Lottery Tickets

Mega Millions jackpot inspires experts to take a closer look
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2012 1:39 PM CDT
Poor Spend 9% of Income on Lottery Tickets
Customers buy Mega Millions lottery tickets at Liquorland on March 30, 2012 in Covina, California The Mega Millions jackpot has reached a high of $640 million before the drawing tonight.   (Getty Images)

The Mega Millions jackpot has inspired much media babble about lottery winners, losers, and what to do if you actually win. But how about the effect of lotteries on the poor? Apparently, it's a killer "hidden tax"—because households banking less than $13,000 a year spend 9% of their annual income on lottery tickets. Business Insider found the shocking statistic in a PBS interview, and says it raises serious questions—like, are the poor too dumb to avoid odds 17 times worse than the chance of being hit by falling airplane parts?

The likely answer: No, they're just grabbing at any chance to improve their circumstances. Looking behind the numbers, Business Insider poses more questions: With the poor receiving tax breaks, welfare, etc, is that money going straight into lottery tickets? Wouldn't it be better just to tax them? Or, in this tax-averse nation, is it better to raise all tax revenue through lotteries? While chewing on that, consider that some experts disagree with the 9% estimate, and say the poor throw away only 2% to 3% of their income on lottery tickets. (More Mega Millions stories.)

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