Why the Affluent Don't Reach Out to Others in Times of Crises

In times of economic hardship, different social classes respond differently. Upper classes turn inward and seek more individual finances while lower classes turn to their communities.

What's the Latest Development?


In times of crises, different socio-economic classes respond differently, with wealthier individuals turning inward while poorer individuals reach out to members of their community for support. This is the conclusion of a series of new experiments conducted at the UC Berkeley, one of which asked individuals whether they would move cross-country for a new job. "When primed with feelings that the world was uncertain and chaotic, upper class participants were more amenable to cutting ties and taking the job, whereas lower class participants opted to stay close to their support networks."

What's the Big Idea?

Beyond reacting differently to crises, the economic behavior of different classes can entrench social divides, further polarizing society. Paul Piff, a post-doctoral scholar in psychology at UC Berkeley, said: "Given the very different forms of coping that we observe among the upper and lower classes, our research suggests that in times of economic uncertainty and social instability, disparities between the haves and the have-nots could grow ever wider." To hedge against this potentially damaging trend, the government should concentrate on policies which encourage a more equitable society. 

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