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# Gambling Behavior in the United States: A Data-Driven Learning Guide

## Interpretation & Summary

Interpretation

Things to think about in interpreting the results:

• It is important to look at the amount of missing data in each relationship and think about the ways in which that might affect the generalizability of the results.

• The numbers in each cell of the crosstabulation tables show the percentage of people who fall into the overlapping categories, followed by the actual number of people that represents this sample. The coloring in the tables demonstrates how the observed number in a cell compares to the expected number if there were no association between the two variables. The accompanying bar charts display the patterns visually as well.

• The use of column percentages, as shown in these tables, allows for the comparison of answers to the "outcome" of interest across values of the grouping variable. For example, of those in the highest income group, 17% reported ever having a gambling problem, compared with 11.5% of those in the second highest income group.

• Weights (mathematical formulas) are often used to adjust the sample proportions, usually by race, sex, or age, to more closely match those of the general population. The analyses in this guide used weights to increase the generalizability of the findings, so the resulting tables are meant to reflect the relationships we would expect to see in the general population.

The analyses show the following:

• About 88% of sample respondents report having ever gambled in their lifetime, and 69% report gambling in the year prior to the survey.

• Of all the types of gambling, the highest percentage of respondents report having ever played the lottery (83.6%). The next most popular type of gambling was in a non-tribal casino (65%).

• 89% of respondents in the 30-49 age group report having ever gambled in their lifetime, compared with 84% of the younger group, and 83% of the older group. However, when only the past year's gambling behavior is considered, the percentage of gamblers is highest in the youngest group (78%), and lowest among those ages 50 and over (70%).

• Men (88%) are slightly more likely than women (83%) to have ever gambled.

• Individuals in the in the three highest income groups were roughly equally likely to have ever gambled, while a smaller percentage of individuals in the lowest income group (under \$24,000) had ever gambled. The crosstab of past year gambling and income shows that individuals in the \$50,000-99,000 income group were slightly more likely to have gambled in the past year than other individuals with incomes over \$24,000. For all income groups, the percentage who reported gambling in the past year was about 10-15 percentage points less than the percentage who reported ever gambling. It is important to remember that household income was measured for the past year--the same timeframe as past year gambling behavior. Lifetime gambling behavior does not share the same timeframe with the income measure.

• Whites report the highest percentage of lifetime gambling (88%), followed by Hispanics (83%), Other (81%), and Blacks (78%).

• When the lowest income group is excluded from the sample, Whites and Hispanics have nearly the same rates of gambling (91% and 90%), as do Blacks and Other (83% each). Income appears to be a confounding variable in the relationship between race/ethnicity and gambling behavior.

• 12.3% of gamblers report ever having a gambling problem. Respondents in the 18-29 age group were most likely to report problem gambling (16%). Of the 50 and older age group, only 10% reported problem gambling.

• Problem gambling is most common among the highest income group (those making \$100,000 or more per year).

Summary

The goal of this exercise was to explore gambling behavior and characteristics of gamblers in the United States.

Taken together the results show that most Americans gamble at some point in their life, though gambling behavior varies by gender, age, income, and race/ethnic group. The most popular type of gambling is the lottery, followed by non-tribal casinos. The relationship between gambling behavior and race/ethnicity is confounded by income. Because racial minorities are overrepresented in the lowest income group, every minority group appears to gamble less than whites. However, when income is accounted for in the relationship between race/ethnicity and gambling, the results change. This exercise emphasized the importance of thinking carefully about how variables are measured, and to consider possible confounding variables that may influence your results.

CITATION: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research. Gambling Behavior in the United States: A Data-Driven Learning Guide. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2009-04-16. Doi:10.3886/gambling