The rich really are different from you or me. They’re more likely to behave unethically.
That’s the finding of a group of studies by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. The research shows that people of higher socioeconomic status are more likely to break traffic laws, lie in negotiations, take valued goods from others, and cheat to increase chances of winning a prize. The resulting paper, “Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior,” [PDF] was published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Perhaps most surprising, as this story by PBS NewsHour economics reporter Paul Solman shows, is that the tendency for unethical behavior appears not only in people who are actually rich, but in those who are manipulated into feeling that they are rich. As UC Berkeley social psychologist Paul Piff says, the results are statistical and the trend is clear. “While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything,” Piff told New York magazine,”the rich are way more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.” …
The unethical behavior measured may just be a subset of risk taking behaviors that lead to wealth. If you look at the balance, rich people probably have a higher percentage of ethical behaviors as well. In other words, more behavioral variability.