Does being from a higher social class lead a person to engage in more or less prosocial behavior? Psychological research has recently provided support for a negative effect of social class on prosocial behavior. However, research outside the field of psychology has mainly found evidence for positive or u-shaped relations. In the present research, we therefore thoroughly examined the effect of social class on prosocial behavior. Moreover, we analyzed whether this effect was moderated by the kind of observed prosocial behavior, the observed country, and the measure of social class. Across eight studies with large and representative international samples, we predominantly found positive effects of social class on prosociality: Higher class individuals were more likely to make a charitable donation and contribute a higher percentage of their family income to charity (32,090 ≥ N ≥ 3,957; Studies 1–3), were more likely to volunteer (37,136 ≥N ≥ 3,964; Studies 4–6), were more helpful (N = 3,902; Study 7), and were more trusting and trustworthy in an economic game when interacting with a stranger (N = 1,421; Study 8) than lower social class individuals. Although the effects of social class varied somewhat across the kinds of prosocial behavior, countries, and measures of social class, under no condition did we find the negative effect that would have been expected on the basis of previous results reported in the psychological literature. Possible explanations for this divergence and implications are discussed.
Wealthy individuals play an important role in charitable giving. We present evidence that millionaires give more than any other group studied in the literature. This holds particularly in a clear giving situation. In our study, millionaires either participated in a dictator game or an ultimatum game and they either interacted with another millionaire or with a low-income individual. In the dictator game, the millionaire decides how to split an amount between herself and a recipient who has no power. In the ultimatum game, the receiver needs to approve the proposer’s proposal; otherwise, both players are paid zero. Millionaires give more to a low-income participant in the dictator game than in the more strategic ultimatum game.
This paper studies conditions influencing the generosity of wealthy people. We conduct incentivized experiments with individuals who have at least €1 million in their bank account. The results show that millionaires are more generous toward low-income individuals in a giving situation when the other participant has no power, than in a strategic setting, where the other participant can punish unfair behavior. Moreover, the level of giving by millionaires is higher than in any other previous study. Our findings have important implications for charities and financial institutions that deal with wealthy individuals.