Idaho Lottery Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary. Should We Be Celebrating, Too?

LotteryCheckPicWith much fanfare, the Idaho Lottery observed its 30th anniversary last month, but is the occasion really worth celebrating?

Proponents of the Idaho Lottery trumpet the dividends it pays to Idaho K-12 public schools, which totaled $18.6 million in 2018. Yet that accounts for only 1.1 percent of the total state spending for K-12 public schools for the same year. Not exactly the windfall gain for public schools that supporters of the lottery make it out to be.

In truth, the Idaho Lottery creates victims and drains our economy. Gambling is accompanied by a host of social problems often exceeding any alleged benefits.

Most lottery tickets are purchased by the poorest Idahoans who can least afford it. A study conducted by Duke University researchers found that households making less than $25,000 annually spend more than double as much on lottery tickets as households with an annual income of more than $100,000. Researchers have also “found that the poorest third of households bought more than half of all weekly lottery tickets sold.”

Low-income lottery participants often redirect their spending from essential items (housing, food, education, and transportation) to purchasing lottery tickets. Despite the near impossible odds of winning it big, many of them see gaming as a ticket out of their financial difficulties, and the consequences of their gambling place an inordinate strain on their marriages and children.

While the state lottery brings in a negligible amount of funding for public schools and other government programs, it functions as a regressive tax on the poorest people in our state and discourages economically productive and socially beneficial behavior. As with most government schemes to wrest more dollars from the public, the problems caused by the lottery far outweigh any overstated benefits.

Through its lottery, the State of Idaho encourages poor financial decisions and behaviors that negatively affect families and communities. Certainly we shouldn’t be celebrating that.


This article was originally written for Family Policy Alliance of Idaho.


 

Marriage Rates Decline, Concerning Social Scientists

The percentage of single adults reached a new record high in 2016, according to a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau. But social scientists say the precipitous decline in marriage rates over the last four decades has resulted in negative consequences for individuals, families, and communities alike.

Only 59 percent of men and 69 percent of women under 35 years old have ever married. In 1976, 88 percent of men and 95 percent of women had married before turning 35 years old.

Young adults aren’t forgoing romantic relationships entirely, however. The number of young adults cohabitating with their boyfriends or girlfriends has increased by more than 1,200 percent during the same period.

Social scientists have found that individuals who delay marriage or cohabitate miss out on numerous benefits that follow from tying the knot. Marriage causes men to become more productive, increasing their success at work and improving their financial well-being. Their wives are more likely to have a fulfilling sex life and are less likely to become victims of sexual assault. Married men and women are emotionally, psychologically, and physically healthier than their unmarried peers.

Children also benefit from growing up in a household where both parents are married. Such children are statistically less likely to have behavioral problems, experience poverty, or suffer abuse. They are also more likely to do better in school and have healthy families of their own when they grow up.

The trends outlined in the Census Bureau report are concerning. Healthy communities are the product of healthy marriages, and healthy marriages promote individual contentment and fulfillment. Therefore, we must always work to ensure that we encourage marriage, thereby strengthening individuals, families, and communities.


This article was originally written for the Indiana Family Institute.