Monday, August 23, 2010

Who are More Generous with Their Money, the Poor or the Rich?

The research points to the poor.

From the story –
Do people with less give more, and those with more give less? This question is central to discussions about the responsibilities of those in the upper echelons of society with abundant economic wealth. A reasonable expectation is that upper-class individuals experience fewer costs in any benevolent gesture and should therefore be inclined to give more. A contrasting expectation—and one that at first glance may seem surprising—is that individuals from lower-class backgrounds are dependent upon others and, as a result, disposed to be more altruistic and generous.

Our research strongly supports the latter hypothesis: Individuals from lower-class backgrounds are more generous, trusting, and helpful toward others. Why are lower-class individuals more generous? We find that increased altruism among lower-class individuals is caused by their heightened feelings of compassion and concern for the welfare of others. In essence, differences in baseline levels of compassion among lower- and upper-class individuals give rise to differing levels of generosity and altruism. Increased compassion among lower-class individuals promotes trust and cooperation, generating a web of social bonds that is vital to their adaptation to a more threatening environment.

This does not surprise me honestly. I say this based completely on personal experience. I am poor. Literally, if you look at my annual income I fall under the official federal poverty line. That having been said, if I have money and someone needs to borrow some, I’ll give what I have away in a heartbeat. Granted none of this is anything major but it is the compassionate mindset that I think, in part at least, comes from own experience being poor.

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