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Noah Smith

What Else Would You Be Willing to Do For $1 Million?

Let's dream bigger than just vaccinations: Lotteries can be used to incentivize all kinds of pro-social behaviors, from public health to personal finance.

Lotteries may be more useful than we thought.

Lotteries may be more useful than we thought.

Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

An innovative lottery program in Ohio looks like it might have succeeded in raising vaccination rates. If the result holds, it means a triumph for behavioral economics. And that will open up the possibility of using lotteries to lure people into doing all sorts of things.

Less than 50% of the U.S. population has been vaccinated so far — enough to reduce cases, but not nearly enough to end the pandemic decisively. Public health authorities have tossed out a lot of ideas for getting these people to do the right thing: vaccine passports, payments to people who get vaccinated, sending people personalized text messages, to name a few. But the best solution might have been found by Ohio's Republican governor, Mike DeWine.