Real Clear Science - Newton Blog: Why Rich People Don't Care About You
Examine the income ladder of the United States, and you'll soon stumble upon a surprising fact: Rich people donate a smaller portion of their income to charity than poor people. In 2011, people in the bottom 20% donated 3.2 percent of their earnings. People in the top 20% donated just 1.3 percent.
These numbers don't seem to be anomalous, but there is some nuance. Data from the National Center for Charitable Statistics shows that taxpayers making less than $60,000 donate around 3.75% per year, while those making between $200,000 and $10 million donate less than 3%. However, those making more than $10 million are the most generous of all, donating nearly 6% of their income.*
Psychologists have examined this dynamic even further.
"What we've been finding across dozens of studies and thousands of participants across this country is that as a person's levels of wealth increase, their feelings of compassion and empathy go down, and their feelings of entitlement, of deservingness, and their ideology of self-interest increases," Paul Piff, an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior at the University of California, Irvine, announced in a 2013 TEDx talk. ...
... Of course, the wealthy aren't doomed to be Scrooges. For instance, the studies did not examine if there were behavioral differences between those who earned their wealth versus those who simply lucked into it. Also, Keltner insists that the human brain is hardwired to care. The wealthy just have to consciously work to be more cognizant of their fellow humans.
I've read other studies that indicate that the wealthy are just as responsive to needs as less wealthy people but wealthy people are more isolated from the needs of people farther down the economic ladder. Social distance and ignorance may be factors as big or bigger than selfishness or indifference.