Income inequality and gambling: A panel study in the United States 1980-1997


While there are many studies that examine the consequences of increasing income inequality, its effects on gambling behavior have not yet been studied. In this article, we argue that income inequality increases the average expenditure on gambling. Using longitudinal state-level data for the United States (1980-1997), we estimate fixed-effects models to analyze two types of gambling expenditure: pari-mutuel betting and lottery spending. Our findings show a positive effect of increasing income inequality on lottery expenditure. For pari-mutuel betting, the result is not linear, as for higher levels of income inequality, the positive effect decreases, suggesting that the effect flattens out when the increase in income inequality is highest. We argue that there are three reasons why we find a positive effect of income inequality of gambling expenditure: increasing mobility aspirations, availability of resources in the upper part of the distribution, and status anxiety in the lower part of the distribution.

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