Rich People Are Big Meanies Who Just Don’t Care, Right?
Religion & Liberty Online

Rich People Are Big Meanies Who Just Don’t Care, Right?

In a New York Times op-ed, Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and author, declared, “Rich People Just Care Less.” How does he know this? Because studies have been done. So there. Rich people lack empathy, don’t listen to people lower on the social ladder than themselves, and

…seem to pay particularly little attention to those with the least power. To be sure, high-status people do attend to those of equal rank — but not as well as those low of status do.

Except, it’s not quite true. It’s a little off. Skewed. Downright…flawed.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, at Real Clear Markets, demonstrates that the data used as the basis for Goleman’s claim was terrible. There’s really no other word for it.

To support his theory, Goleman cites research by psychology professors Dacher Keltner of University of California (Berkeley) and Michael Kraus of the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). One of their articles, entitled “Social Class, Contextualism, and Empathic Accuracy,” appeared in the 2010 edition of Psychological Science. They conclude on the basis of three psychological studies that “lower-class individuals should be more accurate judges of the emotions of others than upper-class individuals are.”

However, there are major problems with the three studies in the paper. First, no low-income nor upper-income individuals were included in the experiments. The subjects are relatively small samples of university students or employees, who are role-playing upper- and lower-income individuals. The authors admit that “these samples likely underrepresent individuals from the richest and poorest sectors of society.” This is an understatement-the samples do not even contain rich and poor people. (Emphasis added.)

That’s right: they didn’t actually ask people who were rich or poor. It was all just pretend. Hypothetical. Imagined.

It would be lovely if we could simply titter about this and dismiss it, but we can’t. People read a headline, a by-line, a few sentences and it becomes “truth.” Rich people don’t care – I read it in the New York Times. It must be true, right?

Read “The Rich Don’t Care For The Poor? What A Laugh” at

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Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.