For a Dollar and a Dream: State Lotteries and the American Culture of Inequality, 1964- 2014

by Jonathan Cohen

Jan 1, 2016
According to the Pew Research Center, 50% of Americans have bought a lottery ticket in their lifetime and 25% do so at least once a week, amounting to over $70 billion spent on lotteries in 2014 alone. My dissertation traces the rise of state lotteries in the political, cultural, religious, and economic context of the late twentieth century. Unlike previous studies that assume a timeless popularity of gambling, I argue that lotteries illustrate how individuals as well as state governments responded to economic uncertainty. As the economy increasingly failed to provide middle- and working-class Americans with financial stability through traditional means, many turned to lotteries as alternative avenues of social advancement. With similar hopes for a financial windfall in an era of tax rebellion, government officials turned to lotteries in this period to address increasingly imbalanced state and municipal budgets.
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