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

Martin Korndörfer (), Boris Egloff () and Stefan C. Schmukle ()
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Martin Korndörfer: University of Leipzig
Boris Egloff: Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
Stefan C. Schmukle: University of Leipzig

No 1601, Working Papers from Gutenberg School of Management and Economics, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

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.

New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-soc
Date: 2015-07-20
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Published in PLoS ONE 10(7): e0133193. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0133193

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https://download.uni-mainz.de/RePEc/pdf/Discussion_Paper_1601.pdf First version, 2015 (application/pdf)

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