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Financing Public Goods by Means of Lotteries

Publication Date:
Jan 1999
Project Programs:
Behavioral Economics

When viewed as taxes, lotteries are routinely criticized as being both inequitable and inefficient. But is this an entirely fair comparison? Frequently lotteries are used in lieu of voluntary contributions by private charities and governments when taxes are not feasible. In this paper, a model of equilibrium wagering behavior in lotteries, whose proceeds will be used to fund a public good, is considered. Relative to voluntary contributions, wagers in the unique lottery equilibrium (a) increase the provision of the public good, (b) are welfare improving, and (c) provide levels of the public good close to first-best as the lottery prize increases.

The Russell Sage Foundation
Journal of the Social Sciences

The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.

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