I saw this video on upworthy.com which is based on the study Higher social class predicts unethical behavior from Berkeley university. It basically argues, that being rich makes people behave more unethically.
The study is a review article of seven separate studies which concluded the following points:
- upper-class individuals were more likely to break the law while driving, relative to lower-class individuals (2 studies).
- upper-class individuals were more likely to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies,
- take valued goods from others,
- lie in a negotiation,
- cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize,
- upper-class individuals were more likely to endorse unethical behavior at work than were lower-class individuals.
What is unethical behavior?
The study does not give a definition of what it deems to be unethical but it certainly understands the above given points as being unethical.
Correlation versus Causation
The conclusion sounds very harsh to me. I always see the problem, that there might have been some confusion with what is the actual cause and what is just correlation. My first thought was, that maybe greedy/unethical people are just more effective in becoming rich. But this issue seems to have been addressed. In one part of the study participants played a skewed game of Monopoly where one person had significant advantage compared to the other. One player was "rich" the other "poor". The rich player started off with more funds and was allowed to play with two dice, the poor person only got to role one die.
The "rich" player started to behave like someone who is of more value. He started to talk in a harsher voice, being more commanding, using less polite language, grabbing more of the provided snacks. The researchers defined this behavior to be more unethical and hence concluded not only correlation but also causation between being rich and unethical behavior.
Is the conclusion valid?
Nevertheless I am Skeptical that there is such a clear cut conclusion that being rich means being more unethical.
Is the conclusion of the study valid, have there been more studies confirming or contradicting the results, are there other follow-ups?