What is a Lottery?


The term “lottery” refers to an arrangement in which prizes are allocated by chance and no skill is involved. Prizes may include money, goods, services, and even human beings. Modern lotteries often involve a computerized random number generator. Some lotteries let you mark a box on your playslip to indicate that you accept whatever numbers the computer picks for you.

Historically, lottery play has been associated with low socioeconomic status and neighborhood disadvantage. However, this association is less clear for whites and more apparent for blacks and Native Americans. Moreover, lottery play is also linked with higher education, urban residence, and income.

Lotteries have been around for centuries, with biblical instructions to Moses for taking a census and dividing the land, Roman emperors giving away property and slaves, and British colonists bringing them to America. Despite the negative perception of gambling, many people find lottery games to be enjoyable. Some people purchase multiple tickets to increase their chances of winning, while others buy them only for the entertainment value or other non-monetary benefits they provide. The decision to play a lottery is a rational one for any individual if the expected utility from monetary and non-monetary gains is high enough.

Shirley Jackson’s story, The Lottery, portrays a small village that practices lotteries. The unfolding of the events in this short story reveals the evil nature of humankind as they mistreat their neighbors, presumably to conform with traditional cultural norms and beliefs.