Shame on the Rich

Shame on the Rich

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For fans of the British upstairs-downstairs TV series Downton Abbey, skullduggery may seem evenly distributed among the social ranks. But in real life, it’s the upper classes that are more likely to behave dishonorably, according to new research.

Observers of human nature have long puzzled over the possibility of an ethical class divide. On the one hand, people with fewer resources and dimmer prospects might be expected to do whatever’s necessary to get ahead. On the other, wealthy types may be more focused on themselves, because money, independence, and freedom can insulate people from the plight of others. They may also be less generous: Studies involving money games show that upper-class subjects keep more for themselves, and U.S. surveys find that the rich give a smaller percentage of their income to charity than do the poor.

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