The rich have more money but the poor are rich in heart: study

(PhysOrg.com) -- The world could one day be an economically equal place, if the lower-income population have anything to do with it. In an interesting yet disheartening series of socioeconomic experiments, led by a team of UC Berkeley researchers, the findings are that those on the lower-income levels are more likely to give and be charitable than their higher paid counterparts.

In one experiment in particular, led by doctoral student, Paul Piff and his researchers, participants completed a questionnaire reporting their and a few days later were provided with $10 to share anonymously. The findings concluded the more generous of the income brackets were on the lower-income scale. A recent national survey reiterates the results, revealing lower-income people give more of their hard-earned money to charity than the wealthy.

At a time when the richest one percent of Americans own more than the bottom 90 percent combined, Piff and his colleagues' findings are more than a little timely. "Our data suggests that an ironic and self-perpetuating dynamic may in part explain this trend," the study researchers write, to be published in the . "Whereas lower-class individuals may give more of their resources away, upper-class individuals may tend to preserve and hold onto their wealth. This differential pattern of giving versus saving among upper--and lower-- class people could serve to exacerbate in society."

Piff and his researchers, including Greater Good Science Center Faculty , Dacher Keltner, conducted a second experiment based on the definitive psychological evidence that the less people have, the more they give. The participants did an exercise stating how they felt people should divvy their annual income. They were able to choose from charitable contributions, recreation, food, and other miscellaneous things. The point of the activity was to make them feel higher or lower on the status bar. It showed, again, those on the lower end, thought a higher percentage should be charitable.

The researchers also found evidence that the likelihood of executing other compassionate, generous tasks and behaviors might be explained by their higher concern for equality and empathy for others. Though on the other end, when researchers provoked compassion in the higher-class participants, they were just as much -- if not more -- socially conscious as the lower-class participants. The researchers felt being "rich or "poor" wouldn't necessarily indicate social behaviors, but it is the starting level of compassion they might feel for others.

Prior research, found by Piff and his colleagues, suggests lower income people might be more compassionate because they're more closely rooted to and dependent on others, therefore more empathetic. It's also thought the more money the lower-earning people make in their lifetime and the higher their status becomes. As a result of it, the ability to connect with others' point-of-view disappears, including the low-income population they were once ties to.


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Aug 18, 2010
the rich treat everyone under them like dirt and live in their own private world,"you income tax go's to Haiti so don't give anything else" or words to that effect.

Aug 19, 2010
It could be that $10 is not experienced by the rich as being sufficient useful to anyone to be worth being given to anyone out of "compassion". They might have been paradoxically more generous with $100--an untried control.

Aug 19, 2010
@Squirrel,

Exactly right, not being "rich" our self's, my wife and I regular give over 10K a year to charities. And hundreds to Haiti to be exact.

Aug 19, 2010
The whole premise is wrong. The test subjects didn't earn the money so it had no value to them. Not surprised that Berkeley people didn't know that because they continue advocating giving things to the poor and can't figure out why the poor are still poor.

Aug 19, 2010
Giving to charity doesn't change anything for the better. The only way to decrease suffering in 3rd world countries is by allowing free trade between nations. By giving aid we are only making things worse. When you give a poor African a bag of rice and a t-shirt he won't have to buy these products anymore. Ruining the livelihoods of African farmers and tailors. Opening up Western economies will give African farmers and tailors a chance to sell their products and earn a living. Resulting in a growing economy and thus less poverty. Most people mean to do well by giving to charity, but they are only increasing suffering!

Aug 19, 2010
In addition to the fact that people don't value that which they don't earn, it is a survival strategy among the very poor to share what they have. They have been on the receiving end when they were in need, and at that economic level it is expected that they will share what they have. As people rise on the economic ladder their peers need less assistance so people tend to hold on more to what they have. America is the richest nation on earth and is the most generous (by far). What does this do to your theory?

Aug 19, 2010
Simply put the rich don't personally feel the pain of not having enough to get by, the poor know the issues very well and are closer to the point of desperation. That said, if you took every dime and divided it among the populace, within a generation or two you would once again have rich and poor. People are complex beings and to think we are all equal and have the same motivations is an incomplete perception. Anyone who has raised multiple children can see the differences between siblings from a very early age. When you add in different families, geography, religions, politics, race and other variables you shouldn't possibly think we are all the same or will have the same motivations.

Aug 19, 2010
That well-off people are stingier than ordinary people is news?

Aug 19, 2010
Curious as to whether generosity was based on total donations/year or on the total donations as a percentage of their income...

Aug 19, 2010
marjon: If church-associated charities were not excluded, then that comes as no surprise.

Aug 19, 2010
This could have a lot to do with "out of sight/out of mind". The "rich" may be more inclined to help out their peers that they see everyday. The people in lower income brackets see lower income pain daily and are more likely to help.

Aug 19, 2010
From personal experience here in the Southeastern USA, which tends to lean towards the conservative side, I've found that politically polarized "radical" people don't seem to contribute much and tend to complain more than anything. They seem to spend more time wanting someone to do something and don't seem to realize it could/should be them.

I have a small circle of friends and aquaintences, most of whom contribute fairly significantly, through faith-based organizations and to a lesser extent to food banks and organizations like Meals on Wheels.

I've noticed that if you tend to believe that the government should take care of everyone, then you may feel obsolved of any personal responsibility towards your fellow man, and more inclined to want to ensure the other guy is paying his fair share.

Aug 19, 2010
"It's also thought the more money the lower-earning people make in their lifetime and the higher their status becomes." ???

Aug 19, 2010
It's true I see this all the time. It's very easy to understand, when you're rich you have a lot of distractions and it can be very confusing. It leaves a huge possibility that feeling charitable is as rewarding as being charitable.

However, low income translates to low distractions and makes more clear the difference between feeling and doing.

Emotionally we all have a drive to nurture members of our community, rich or poor we're exactly the same this way. Poor people are charitable because they have nothing else to do. Rich people can't help but have that drive diluted, wealth is extremely distracting. It takes a great deal of personal resources to accumulate wealth and more to manage it and this does not leave room for much else unless you're aware of you're own limitations and account for this.

Aug 20, 2010
Why don't the liberals donate more to their 'church', the government?


That's called taxes. Even if they did that it would hardly be called charity.

Aug 20, 2010
marjon: If church-associated charities were not excluded, then that comes as no surprise.

What is your point?
Why don't the liberals donate more to their 'church', the government? Everyone in MA can choose to pay taxes at a higher rate. Few do.
Do you count Hamas as a charitable organization? I don't, but they do as much charity work as the majority of Christian churches do. Please do not take this as a sign of Hamas being worthy of donation.

Your definitions are poor and your quote mining from the source is also deplorable. Define liberal and conservative in the context of that study....

Oh right, you can't, because they didn't. So there's really no data in this study.

Aug 20, 2010
A lot of donations to church go towards fixing and maintaining the church (electricity bills, fixing the leaky roof, paying for holy water, etc.). Obviously there will also be money/food drives for specific causes, but a lot of the money goes towards actually keeping the church itself going.

I don't see how it's significantly different from government. Taxes go towards the upkeep and maintenance of the country. Sometimes that money is used for aid to other countries. It's pretty similar.

Just for clarification I'm not saying that paying taxes is like giving to charity. I'm saying paying taxes is like giving money to the Church (which is actually considered a chariable donation).

Oh and please don't tell me about how you disagree with how government money is spent citing specific cases... it will likely be a non-sequitor and I won't respond to it anyways.

Aug 20, 2010
Oh and please don't tell me about how you disagree with how government money is spent citing specific cases... it will likely be a non-sequitor and I won't respond to it anyways.


Churches don't set up a bureaucracy of union members to redistribute wealth. Their members donate their time to help people out of poverty, not keep them dependent.


I guess I should have asked you not to cite general non-sequitors as well.

My bad for not being clear.

Aug 20, 2010
Churches don't set up a bureaucracy of union members to redistribute wealth. Their members donate their time to help people out of poverty, not keep them dependent.

You might want to take another look at the local church, marjon.

Aug 20, 2010
I have never attended a church with salaried union members being paid by the church.

Have you ever been to one that pays taxes? Or perhaps whose employees pay taxes? Or maybe one that doesn't receive subsidization from it's constituents and raises all of it's income through selling a product?


Aug 20, 2010
With the last job I had, I was meeting at least 5 very wealthy families a week. I will tell you from experience that wealthy people ARE different. They think they are better than you and to be honest I love every good person but I am not lying when I say 85% of wealthy people or jewish people I met were truly sickening. If these people saw you dying on the side of the road they would not even think of helping you. In Other words they wouldn't piss on a fire to put you out, but it will be a good hearted poor person that saves their fu**ing life one day. Police and Military personnel do not make enough money, tell me I am lying.

Aug 20, 2010
Also, most of the wealthy don't go through the same experiences or struggles as the poor. They have no real structure or discipline. Another thought is that it is much more difficult for a poor person to keep a good heart, therefore an unwealthy person that perseveres is by far a better person. A truly good being does good things even when no one is looking. Sorry for rambling guys.

Aug 20, 2010
I love how black and white the difference between the wealthy and the poor is.

Aug 20, 2010
They think they are better than you and to be honest I love every good person but I am not lying when I say 85% of wealthy people or jewish people I met were truly sickening.

Yep, this looks completely unbiased.

Aug 20, 2010
I tend to be less pessimistic about the moral characters of the very wealthy. In my opinion, very few people intentionally do what they believe to be immoral or wrong. However, the culture of corporate capitalism that permeates our society not only condones an attitude of "I'm gonna get mine and screw everybody else," but actively colors it as the right thing to do, despite people's normal moral intuition. But when the situation is as out of whack as a mere 3 million people owning upwards of $55 trillion while the other 299 million people have to split about 4.5 trillion, I fear that normal moral intuition needs a rather substantial boost.

Aug 21, 2010
America is the richest nation on earth and is the most generous (by far).

Generous in what?

Aug 21, 2010
Also, most of the wealthy don't go through the same experiences or struggles as the poor.

What is great about the wealthy in the USA, most started out poor. Andrew Carnegie was poor.
"when Rockefeller was sixteen he got his first job as an assistant bookkeeper, working for a small produce commission firm called "Hewitt & Tuttle""
Then you have those like Kerry who marry into wealth and did nothing to create it. Or the Kennedy'a who lived of their family name and wealth.
Top ten rags to riches: "http://top-10-lis.../"
I will add one more: Rush Limbaugh and there are thousands of others.

Rush Limbaugh is a lying propagandist someone I'm sure you hold in great esteem.

Aug 22, 2010
I don't see how they can draw such conclusions from these 2 experiments. What can they show by giving people $10 to share anonymously? Keeping the money wasn't an option. For the second experiment, that poorer people think people in general should be charitable is no surprise, they are often the recipients of such charity.

Most research shows that wealth producing countries are the most charitable. Instead they should research what people actually do with their own money, but I don't think the results will fit with their perception of how the world works.

Aug 22, 2010
I tend to be less pessimistic about the moral characters of the very wealthy. In my opinion, very few people intentionally do what they believe to be immoral or wrong. However, the culture of corporate capitalism that permeates our society not only condones an attitude of "I'm gonna get mine and screw everybody else," but actively colors it as the right thing to do, despite people's normal moral intuition. But when the situation is as out of whack as a mere 3 million people owning upwards of $55 trillion while the other 299 million people have to split about 4.5 trillion, I fear that normal moral intuition needs a rather substantial boost.


No, or very little, progress is made without strife. Whether that be war, disease or the marketplace. Without strife comes stagnation.

Aug 23, 2010
Nothing political about the "Greater Good Science Center" is there? Facts: Americans are by far more generous to charity than Europeans. Conservative people in America are much more generous than liberal people. Religious people are the very charitable. Liberals are generous with OPM - other peoples' money. This study is interesting, but seems biased toward a class warfare opinion. I've known some very rich folks, and they were THE nicest people I ever met.

Aug 23, 2010
The rich also see how much is taken out in their taxes for "charity" by the government as it already stands. I'm sure that has nothing to do with their attitudes either...

Aug 23, 2010
Rush Limbaugh is a lying propagandist someone I'm sure you hold in great esteem.

Whatever you think if his opinions, he was poor and earned his wealth by making money for many other people.
Al Gore is a lying propagandist who is made his money perpetuating a fraud using the power of the state.
Rush made his fortune in the free market exchange of ideas.

Wrong again. Rush was not poor.

Sep 01, 2010
Rush Limbaugh is a lying propagandist someone I'm sure you hold in great esteem.

Whatever you think if his opinions, he was poor and earned his wealth by making money for many other people.
Al Gore is a lying propagandist who is made his money perpetuating a fraud using the power of the state.
Rush made his fortune in the free market exchange of ideas.

Wrong again. Rush was not poor.

AM DJs were not well paid.

Wow, that's a far cry from being poor. That must be some world you live in.

Sep 01, 2010
No marjon. Those are the average.

Sep 01, 2010
From the article you just quoted (the very next paragraph actually):

"Of course, the living conditions of the average poor American should not be taken as representing all the poor. There is actually a wide range in living conditions among the poor. For example, a third of poor households have both cellular and landline telephones. A third also have telephone answering machines. At the other extreme, however, approximately one-tenth have no phone at all. Similarly, while the majority of poor households do not experience significant material problems, roughly 30 percent do experience at least one problem such as overcrowding, temporary hunger, or difficulty getting medical care."


Sep 01, 2010
I think my main problem with that definition is how broad it is.

The average adult in their early twenties by this definition of poor is... poor. Single income, probably don't own their house, probably don't have a family to support yet.

I'm a 22 year old with a good job relatively fresh out of school. I rent my house and make car payments. I'm poised right now to have a pretty decent future if I play my cards right. By this definition of poor I'm considered poor.

Unfortunately a 35 year old single mother with three kids who's working two jobs and owns the house she lives in is also in the same definition of poor.

It's not fair to people who are actually having troubles to be grouped into the same category as me when our qualities of life are so vastly different.

People see the description of the "average poor person" and figure they're actually probably doing just fine when if fact the people in the lower half of this demographic are really struggling.

Sep 01, 2010
Ok, so you're admitting then that Rush Limbaugh having been "poor" is only true using the broad US Census Bureau definition of poor?

Sep 02, 2010
He was as poor as every other person working in the USA. The original point is there are thousands of people in the USA who have started with nothing and have become rich by working hard, and they don't forget their roots.

I wouldn't consider being the son of a decorated war hero and nephew of a gamut of rich federal lawyers being a poor kid.

Do you know where he grew up? Cape Girardeau, Missouri. CG was the typical whites only suburb until the medical industry moved in 20 years ago. It was a suburban paradise. Rush was about as poor as the Kennedys, which is not poor at all.

Sep 02, 2010
How many Kennedy's went out into the world to make their own way?

If you consider what Rush did as "making his own way", all of them.

Sep 02, 2010
Yes, there are examples out there, but I've yet to personally meet anyone who achieved success simply through through luck. Those I've met who have attained some degree of success tend to have something different about them compared to the common person.

Just like in sports, there are some who excell and some who don't. Nature (luck) can be a significant factor, but effort and sacrifice in my observation tend to be far more valuable. When I see a kid "making it" in a sport because he's out there practicing and improving his skill while others are elsewise entertained; I say more power to him, and he deserves his success. Just as those who didn't put forth sufficent effort to excell don't deserve the same success. Why not the same expectation in science, business or industry?

I'm not a big fan of punishing those who are driven to succeed, just those who abuse others to do so.

As for guys like Rush: I'm no fan of his, but his success proves to me that a lot of people are.

Sep 02, 2010
Rush's father launched his DJ career?
His father's name did. His mother's ties into local showbusiness from her singing days helped quite a bit as well.
Joe bought the presidency and seats in Congress and the Senate. Patches Kennedy quit after his father died as he knew he would be ignored as a Congressman.
Patrick quit because he has serious drug problems, very much like Rush, the other Kennedys were given their livelyhood by their criminal father, just like Rush's family.

The analogy is sound.

VOR
Sep 06, 2010
well since I didnt see anyone say it yet: people with a bit more money tend to get that way, to a centain extent, by having different spending, saving, and donating habits than people with less money. Spending habits are HUGELY impactful of income. "A penny saved is a penny earned" is PROFOUNDLY true. Spending is so important that you shouldn't even think of income without it. You can make 40k and be broke, or even in debt, or make 40k and after 10 years have 100k in savings. I theorize that many donate less for this reason, but if they get to what they consider true wealth they then donate more. BTW Rush, Beck and similar and followers are ignorant embarrassments to anyone with a clue.

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