Social Explanations of Lottery Play: New Evidence Based on National Survey Data

J Gambl Stud. 2018 Dec;34(4):1185-1203. doi: 10.1007/s10899-018-9748-0.


This study examines the social contexts of gambling and analyzes social motivations for playing the lottery. We test three sociological approaches simultaneously: network effects, consumption theory, and strain theory. The data used (SOEP-IS, N = 5868 individuals) has several advantages beyond being a large-scale representative sample of the German population. With information on households, we can analyze social network effects while avoiding the problems of egocentric network data. Another benefit of the SOEP-IS is the panel structure. We use the panel structure to improve measurements of strain theory by using the decline in income over time as a measure for it. Our results suggest that the three theories explain different aspects of lottery play. Networks seem to have an influence on lottery play. Having another person in the household playing the lottery is positively associated with both the probability of playing (regularly) and expenditures on lottery tickets. Daydreams and the belief in good luck are positively associated with lottery play as well. Strain theory is confirmed insofar as we find that a decline in income is significantly related to expenditures but not to the probability of playing the lottery. Overall, this study suggests that people play the lottery depending on their social surroundings, their desire to participate in a world normally out of their reach, and the tensions they feel from the distance between their aspirations and their actual social position.

Keywords: Imaginative values; Lottery play; Social networks; Sociology; Strain theory.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology*
  • Female
  • Gambling / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Probability
  • Social Networking*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires