Our lottery data set consists of two samples, the “winners” sample and the “nonwinners” sample. The relevant population for the winners sample consists of people playing the Megabucks lottery in Massachusetts during the years 1984 through 1988 and winning a major prize. Major prizes for the purposes of this study are prizes that are paid out in yearly installments over 20 years. The total prizes range from $22,000 to $9,696,000, with the sample mean and median equal to $1,104,000 and $635,000, respectively. The “nonwinners” sample comes from the population of season ticket holders between 1984 and 1988 who have won at least one small, one-time prize, ranging from $100 to $5,000. Individuals were on average 50 years old, predominantly male (63 percent), and more educated than the general population (having attended approximately one more year of school). They earned average incomes of approximately $15,000 in 1983, which was similar to the general population.
The survey questionnaire consists of three sets of questions, the first concerning outcomes at the time of the survey, the second concerning economic behavior and background characteristics at the time of winning, and the third concerning earnings. The survey was conducted in three stages. In July 1995 we sent out by regular mail pilot surveys to 50 winners and 50 non-winners to assess response rates and various approaches to increasing them. In July 1996 we sent out, again by regular mail, surveys to 752 winners and 637 non-winners. Finally, in September 1996 we sent out reminders to 297 non-responding winners and 297 non-responding non-winners. In the pilot survey and the main mailing, respondents were offered the choice between lottery tickets with a nominal cost of 100 dollars or gift certificates in major department stores with a nominal cost of 50 dollars. In the follow-up part of the survey, 49 winners and 49 non-winners were sent ten dollars in cash and were offered a check for an additional 40 dollars in exchange for returning the survey. The other 248 winners and 248 non-winners approached in the follow-up were offered a check for 50 dollars for returning the survey.