What can we learn from lottery spending?

“City Digits: Local Lotto” teaches Brooklyn high school students how to work with data by analyzing lottery spending patterns.


What can we learn from where people buy their lottery tickets — and how much they spend?

City Digits: Local Lotto,” a project from the Civic Data Design Lab at MIT and colleagues at two New York institutions, is exploring this question with the help of Brooklyn high school students who live in low-income neighborhoods where lottery spending is significant.

“Through their participation in City Digits: Local Lotto, high school students have the opportunity to use data they gathered and explored as evidence to support and voice their ideas about the lottery and its impact on their neighborhoods,” says Sarah Williams, director of the Civic Data Design Lab and assistant professor of urban planning at MIT. “In today’s data-driven society, the ability to work with and analyze data will be an essential tool for these students when pursuing a variety of careers or social justice initiatives. And from transportation planning to allocation of health care funding, the ability to work with data has become essential to engage in civic policy making.”

Data visualizations, interviews with lottery ticket buyers and sellers, and other results of the project are on view at the Cooper Hewitt museum through Feb. 26, as part of the “By the People: Designing a Better America” exhibition.

The City Digits: Local Lotto project is an ongoing collaboration with Laurie Rubel, associate professor of secondary education at CUNY’s Brooklyn College, and the Center for Urban Pedagogy, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit organization led by MIT architecture and urban planning alumna Christine Gaspar MA '04 MCP '04 that uses the power of design and art to increase meaningful civic engagement. The project has two goals: to develop and pilot innovative tools to help improve data literacy for high school students and to educate them about issues that directly affect their communities; and to examine the economic effect of the state-sponsored lottery on low-income neighborhoods in New York City.

The first module from City Digits: Local Lotto was pilot tested twice in 2013 with 120 students from the Bushwick School for Social Justice. The centerpiece of the project website — and the Cooper Hewitt exhibition — is a colorful interactive map that helps users visualize geographic patterns in lottery spending.

See full article on MIT News.