This morning on the show Marketplace, they discussed a study that echoes earlier studies suggesting that the wealthier you are — or feel — makes you less likely to care about others.
In this latest study, people were given different cars to drive and then monitored on how they yielded to pedestrians. They found that the more expensive the car, the less likely the driver was inclined to yield to a pedestrian.
Anyone who has struggled to make ends meet in America knows how this feels.
I grew up working class and, by going through law school, ended up in a much wealthier class than the one I grew up in.
In my experience, generosity is more widespread among the poorer people I was raised with. My mother always put money in the poor box at church, telling us that some people needed the money more than we did… And we didn’t have much!
In law school, I first encountered the “avaricious rich” class: those who already come from wealth and are obsessed with getting more. I met classmates who wanted to dedicate their lives to union-busting and making the rich richer.
When I graduated from law school, I found that the jobs that paid the most were about making the rich richer.
As the Village Voice used to say, this time of the year when the New York Times would encourage readers to remember the “neediest cases,” the Village Voice would remind readers to focus on America’s “greediest cases” because, without the greediest cases, the neediest would not be possible.
And, of course, there are generous rich folks and selfish poor ones. I’ve also had enough life experience to know that no race or class or gender has a monopoly on virtue, or vice, or assholes, or kind people. All types of people exist in every class and every gender — some rich folks are kind and generous, and some poor folks are assholes.
And yet, studies like this make one think about the human condition, how we got this way, and what it takes to make the world a better, fairer, and kind.
Peace. Happy Holidays.