In results from seven separate studies, they found a consistent tendency among those they termed “upper-class” to be more likely to break the law while driving, take valued goods from others, lie in negotiations, cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize and endorse unethical behaviour at work.
The reason for the ethical difference was simple, according to the paper being published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a leading U.S. science journal. Wealthier people are more likely to have an attitude that greed is good.
At first glance, it might seem more likely that poorer people would be more tempted to cheat or break the law, in order to improve their lot in life. But a growing body of research is coming to the opposite conclusion – that it’s people at the top of the income scale for whom honesty, integrity, and generosity seem to be a challenge.
In the United States, for instance, despite the perception that the rich are great philanthropists, data show that upper-class households donate a smaller proportion of their incomes to charity than do lower-class families. Other research has found that those who are well off have a reduced concern for others.