Busy choosing your wedding colours, picking out a dress, deciding on veil versus no veil? If you answered "yes" to those questions, chances are you are not a woman who has won a significant amount of money in the lottery recently.
According to a piece posted this week in the Harvard Business Review blog, single women who win the lottery are far less likely to marry over the following three years than are women who did not get that kind of windfall.
The finding comes from a paper by economists Scott Hankins and Mark Hoekstra, who used data based on winners of the Florida State Lottery. What they found was that women who received large winnings (defined as being over $25,000), were 40 per cent less likely to get married over the next three years than they would have been if they did not win. However, male winners were neither more nor less likely to head down the aisle, nor were men or women more likely to divorce if they grabbed a winning ticket.
The results are particularly interesting, given that lottery winners do not generally exhibit careful behaviour if they win. We've all heard the stories, sad as they are: Lottery winners who score millions then run through the whole amount while living it up, and end up on a fast-track back to their old lives within a few years. In fact, according to a 2010 study by researchers at the Vanderbilt University, the University of Kentucky and the University of Pittsburgh, the higher the jackpot, the higher the probability you'll end up broke. Put another way, the less need people have to be careful about money, the greater the degree of bad judgment that they exercise, apparently.
In contrast, the single women in the Hankins/Hoekstra study did exercise restraint in taking on a mate for life. The researchers do not really articulate why this is true, but presumably it has something to do with believing that with the extra cash they could "do better" than the kind of candidates they would have accepted before. Maybe they were wary about the players who would show up with big bouquets of roses and big plans to share in the winning. Or, less dramatically, maybe the fact that they did not have to look at men as a source of financial security made marriage look a lot less appealing. The guys available might have looked more like potential expenses than revenue sources.
Wait a minute – in the 21st century can women still be marrying for financial security? How un-romantic, and kind of desperate, too. Yet maybe there is still a bit of that out there, particularly in the ranks of women who buy lottery tickets in Florida, the source of the data. In that state, men earn an average of $40,951 while women earn $33, 823, or 21 per cent less. That could be enough of a gap to make things look different before and after hitting the lottery jackpot.
Linda Nazareth is the principal of Relentless Economics Inc. and a senior fellow at the Macdonald Laurier Institute.