Are the Rich Jerks? See the Science

The rich really are different from you or me. They’re more likely to behave unethically.

That’s the finding of a group of studies by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. The research shows that people of higher socioeconomic status are more likely to break traffic laws, lie in negotiations, take valued goods from others, and cheat to increase chances of winning a prize. The resulting paper, “Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior,” [PDF] was published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Perhaps most surprising, as this story by PBS NewsHour economics reporter Paul Solman shows, is that the tendency for unethical behavior appears not only in people who are actually rich, but in those who are manipulated into feeling that they are rich. As UC Berkeley social psychologist Paul Piff says, the results are statistical and the trend is clear. ”While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything,” Piff told New York magazine,“the rich are way more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.” …

The unethical behavior measured may just be a subset of risk taking behaviors that lead to wealth. If you look at the balance, rich people probably have a higher percentage of ethical behaviors as well. In other words, more behavioral variability.


  1. Ahh statistics at the very least I’d say at least 2 in 40 people fall outside the mythical 95% confidence interval. Would you like to be that 1 in 20?

    Also I spent a good time (3 hours) searching for why exactly is 95% use and not 90% or 99.9% (1 in 20 (or more accurately 2 in 40) seems a bit haphazard) and I could find no mention of any reason for using it what so ever, so I’d say I’m 99.99% confident it was pulled out of someones posterior one day or it’s mentioned in chapter 2 paragraph 7 of the job jab guide to the flying spaghetti monster as the sacred path to meatballs.


  2. Oliverthered – The confidence of the study (statistical significance) is not strictly set. By convention, researchers will often report the ‘p’ score, which is a direct statement of the confidence interval. Alternatively, ‘*’ is often used to indicate a 95% confidence interval (p<0.05) and '**' for a 99% confidence interval (p<0.01). It's based on the notion that science never 'proves' things definitively, but only builds confidence that a hypothesis is correct.

    More generally, personal observations have indicated that blinkers come as optional equipment (rarely used, p<0.01) in BMWs.


  3. some of us are blessed-we were raised poor but clean
    got the work ethic early-but will always be poor
    and grateful for what we have
    we keep a low profile
    have few friends and
    do what we can to make this a better world
    labels like “asshole” are made by those who sit back
    we don’t have the pleasure of sitting and judgeing
    we know it takes effort to be the best we can be


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s