For a Dollar and a Dream: State Lotteries and American Inequality


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




Every week, 85 million Americans purchase lottery tickets hoping to defy the odds and secure a life of luxury. “For a Dollar and a Dream” illustrates the parallels between these lottery players and the taxpayers and public officials who facilitated the spread of legalized gambling in the United States. Through an examination of gamblers as well as three different waves of lottery legalization, this project demonstrates that states enacted lotteries because voters refused to confront the conflict between their demands for tax breaks and their desire for government services. It argues that the irrational thinking frequently condemned among poor lottery players in fact represents a fundamental feature of many citizens’ relationship with government in the late twentieth century.