Are Rich or Poor More Likely to Cheat?

UC Berkeley Study gives us the answer.

A new study done, in part, by the University of California, Berkeley examines whether the rich or poor are more likely to cheat.

According to the Globe and Mail, the rich win! They’re more likely to cheat, steal be rude drivers and engage in unethical behavior:

The answer, from a new academic paper that looked at class and ethical behaviour, may seem a surprise. People who are well off have more of a proclivity to lie in negotiations and cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize. They’re also more inclined to engage in unethical behaviour at work, such as stealing money, receiving bribes and overcharging customers.

The academics conducted seven laboratory and real-life tests involving more than 1,000 people to check out whether the rich or poor are more ethically challenged.

“The results of these seven studies provide an answer to the question that initiated this investigation: is society’s nobility in fact its most noble actors? Relative to lower-class individuals, individuals from upper-class backgrounds behaved more unethically” in both laboratory and real-life settings, the researchers said in the paper, which is being published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed science journal.

One test the researchers devised was to watch California intersections to see whether drivers of high-end cars were more likely to cut off other drivers or fail to obey rules giving pedestrians the right of way.

Those driving luxury cars were far more likely to disobey the traffic law or illegally cut off other drivers on the road, according to the researchers.

Can anyone offer an explanation for this?

Tim Q. Cannon February 28, 2012 at 12:46 AM
I'm curious about the sampling, ie, where did the subjects come from who were studied. It's a convenient conclusion, but as an armchair sociologist, I'm not so quick to see the cause and effect. In Berkeley, for example, you see many entitled people acting out in various ways, taking what isn't theirs because they think they deserve it and not because they are rich or poor or drive Beemers vs. Prius'. In some cases, it's just bad upbringing, or maybe too many assertiveness training classes. Integrity, which I think is the question, can be defined as what you do when you know that no one is looking. And that, I think is learned from childhood.
Heather Wood February 28, 2012 at 12:56 AM
It might have been Jack Kerouac who wrote that while he was travelling like a hobo, the rich would slam their doors in his face, while the poor would share their meager meals with him. I think there are several elements at work here including, a sense of entitlement, a lack of fear of authority, thus less fear of being arrested. I'd also like to add that when you are poor, you are more likely to understand the repercussions of your behavior, whether it is by the law or by the laws of the street.
Tanya Jo Miller February 28, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Yes, well anecdotal speaking, I can vouch for the bad driving in nice cars. I'm always so surprised b/c I'd think they'd be scared to get their brand new fancy cars in an accident...then again there's a lot of clunkers out there who drive badly too so who knows?
Paul D February 28, 2012 at 05:42 PM
"Behind every great fortune lies a great crime." Honore de Balzac True then, true now. Only the brainwashed think otherwise.
Tim February 28, 2012 at 07:40 PM
It's hard to speculate without the actual paper. Quickly googling, I found two links, the first seems to be this paper, the second an older version (presumably summarizing fewer studies). 1) http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=123301&WT.mc_id=USNSF_51&WT.mc_ev=click 2) https://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/02/fashion/02studied.html?_r=1 The linked article above does make a conclusion -- greed is good -- but I'd add that there seems to be a sense by those with higher levels of success that somehow they deserve the privilege they have achieved. Not unlike many conservative Christians who feel their material success is God-given. Still, I'd caution that in everyday life, there are many studies that show we see patterns that reinforce our existing beliefs. That person in the Mercedes running the stop sign could be rushing to a hospital, we don't know.
Jim Fisher February 29, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Thanks for the due diligence, Tim. Yeah, it's a complicated problem, and hard to say what comes first: the money or the bad behavior. Related item, maybe: the 2nd track on the new Leonard Cohen album has a very clever verse that riffs on the proverb of Jesus that it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man enter the Kingdom of Heaven. "Tell me again When the filth of the butcher Is washed in the blood of the Lamb Tell me again When the rest of the culture Has passed through the eye of the cam..." - from "Amen"


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