March Madness Mathematics: The Economics of Your NCAA Tournament Bracket


March Madness is all about numbers — weighing the difference between the 3 seed and the 14 seed in your bracket — but it’s also very much about economics.

According to a report by Business Degree, American workers will spend nearly 8.4 million hours watching March Madness games (infographic below).

Office bracket pools will create a small economic bubble in the U.S., as around $3.5 billion will be spent on bracket tournaments. And don’t expect the federal government to benefit from these pools — around $2.5 billion will be bet illegally.

Of those 8.4 million hours, you can definitely expect a decline in American economic efficiency. Another report by employment consulting firm Challenger, Gary & Christmas, shows that employers will lose $1 billion in wages paid to distracted workers sneaking in games while at work.  An estimated 58% of all U.S. workers will participate in at least one office pool.

Still, with all this money flying around, don’t expect to cash in big. Your personal chances of picking every outcome correctly throughout the entire tournament are 1 in over 18 quintillion (that’s 18 with another 18 zeros after it). You’re 50 million times more likely to win a Mega Millions’ jackpot.

Will March Madness destroy American business efficiency, especially as the United States struggles to climb out of the Great Recession? As the Los Angeles Times reports, time wasted to web surfing for March Madness “will not even register a blip on the nation’s economic radar,” said Challenger Chief Executive John A. Challenger in a statement.

The Los Angeles Times further reports that the Challenger said, “Rather than try to squash employee interest in March Madness, companies could embrace it as a way to build morale and camaraderie."

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to properly cite language that was originally used without attribution to the Los Angeles Times. We apologize to our readers for this violation of our basic editorial standards. Mic has put in place new mechanisms, including plagiarism detection software, to ensure that this does not happen in the future.