Are the Rich More Selfish than the Poor, or Do They Just Have More Money? A Natural Field Experiment

30 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2017

See all articles by James Andreoni

James Andreoni

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Nikos Nikiforakis

New York University (NYU) - New York University Abu Dhabi

Jan Stoop

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Department of Applied Economics

Date Written: March 2017

Abstract

The growing concentration of resources among the rich has re-ignited a discussion about whether the rich are more selfish than others. While many recent studies show the rich behaving less pro-socially, endogeneity and selection problems prevent safe inferences about differences in social preferences. We present new evidence from a natural field experiment in which we “misdeliver” envelopes to rich and poor households in a Dutch city, varying their contents to identify motives for returning them. Our raw data indicate the rich behave more pro-socially. Controlling for pressures associated with poverty and the marginal utility of money, however, we find no difference in social preferences. The primary distinction between rich and poor is simply that the rich have more money.

Suggested Citation

Andreoni, James and Nikiforakis, Nikos and Stoop, Jan, Are the Rich More Selfish than the Poor, or Do They Just Have More Money? A Natural Field Experiment (March 2017). NBER Working Paper No. w23229, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2935434

James Andreoni (Contact Author)

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0508
United States

HOME PAGE: http://econ.ucsd.edu/~jandreon/

Nikos Nikiforakis

New York University (NYU) - New York University Abu Dhabi ( email )

PO Box 129188
Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/nnikiforakis/home

Jan Stoop

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Department of Applied Economics ( email )

Netherlands

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