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Can Powerball end poverty? Lottery meme fails to check the math

A photo suggesting the US could end poverty by dividing the $1.3 billion Powerball jackpot evenly was widely shared on Facebook, but the math really, really (really) didn't add up.

A new meme claimed poverty would be solved if we all split the Powerball jackpot. If only the math worked out.


As of Tuesday, the estimated jackpot for the Powerball lottery drawing on Wednesday is $1.5 billion. With such a bounty at stake, some folks on social media got to wondering what would happen if the money got divvied up evenly among the US population. Their conclusion? It could aid the nearly 47 million people living in poverty in the country.

A photograph that quickly took hold on Facebook Monday suggested that if every person in the US was given a share of the winnings, we would all be $4.33 million richer and poverty would be eliminated. The photograph went viral after it was shared by Arkansas alternative R&B artist Livesosa, and has been shared over 1.3 million times and liked about 830,000 times as of this writing.

While Livesosa shared the image and added his Twitter handle to it, he says he didn't create the picture. It seems to track back to Twitter user Esteyban, who posted the image to his Instagram account and then deleted it, according to Buzzfeed. He did repost the image with actor/comedian Steve Harvey in the background, while laughing at his mathematical mistake.

CNET attempted to track down the real Philipe Andolini who is supposedly quoted in the image, but searches on Google and Facebook didn't turn up anything certain. Tech Insider posits that it might be a name created by a meme-generator of Esteyban's, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

The issue with the photograph, of course, is that the math is all wrong, to say the least. The picture uses an estimated jackpot of $1.3 billion spread over 300 million people, which would actually net each person $4.33, not the $4.33 million the photo promises. That $4.33 is barely enough to get a combo meal at McDonald's, let alone end poverty.

It seems most of the people commenting on Livesosa's post are pointing out just how flawed the calculation is, but there were definitely plenty of people out there who believed it and shared it with their unsuspecting friends. ("Wow, what a great solution to everyone's problems," read one comment typical of the believers.) I saw this image at least five times in my news feed on Monday, and that's from folks who didn't bother to check the math and were calling on Powerball, the government and whomever else would listen to make it so and get them their $4.33 million.

The Powerball lottery game is offered in 44 states, with drawings taking place twice per week on Wednesday and Saturday. Sadly, the folks behind Powerball can't solve poverty even with a staggering $1.5 billion jackpot, but maybe, just maybe, we can get them to buy us all a grande caramel macchiato from Starbucks.