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November 24, 2015

Research Suggests Giving Lags Where Inequality Is Greatest

New research indicates that wealthy people are less likely to be charitable in regions where the gap between rich and poor is widest, Bloomberg writes. The study by researchers at the University of Toronto and Stanford University, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to examine the effect of inequality on altruism.

The team took results from an existing, nationally representative study aimed at gauging generosity — using a test that has been shown to correlate with real-world giving — and sorted them by the levels of inequality in the subjects' states. Researchers found that wealthy people in states with the biggest income gaps were significantly less generous than those in states where wealth is spread more evenly.

The researchers did their own survey of 700 people recruited online and got similar results. Of the findings, the report's authors said that concentrating wealth in fewer hands may lead to "the belief that one is more important and deserving than others," fostering a sense of entitlement that makes the rich less altruistic.