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A Large Scale Test of the Effect of Social Class on Prosocial Behavior

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  • Martin Korndörfer
  • Boris Egloff
  • Stefan C. Schmukle

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Martin Korndörfer & Boris Egloff & Stefan C. Schmukle, 2015. "A Large Scale Test of the Effect of Social Class on Prosocial Behavior," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 808, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp808
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Bilson, Jessica R. & Jetter, Michael & Kristoffersen, Ingebjørg, 2017. "Gender Differences in the Link between Income and Trust Levels: Evidence from Longitudinal Data," IZA Discussion Papers 10585, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. James Andreoni & Nikos Nikiforakis & Jan Stoop, 2017. "Are the Rich More Selfish than the Poor, or Do They Just Have More Money? A Natural Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 23229, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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