Does getting rich mean giving less? Research shows the more money you have, the more tight fisted you become

  • A study from UC  Berkeley’s Dacher Keltner finds that isolation and a decrease in generosity  occur as personal wealth increases
  • Another  study tracked a Mexican village and watched giving and community activities drop  as wealth grew
  • Since 1800,  Americans have used the word ‘get’ in print progressively more than the word  ‘give’

By  Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 13:30 EST, 4  September 2013 |  UPDATED: 16:22 EST, 4 September 2013

A recent study shows that the more wealth a  person gains, the more likely they are to become both stingier and  lonelier.

Patricia Greenfield studied a Mexican village  for forty years and watched its residents grow progressively distant from one  another as they became richer. And she says the same thing has happened to the  United States as a nation.

By surveying the contents of a million books  printed between 1800 and 2000, Greenfield found that Americans have used  progressively fewer words like ‘give’ and more like ‘get’ over the last 200  years, indicating a serious trend toward individualism she says is all because  of money.

Care to give: Studies find that getting richer often means getting stingier and lonelier because people require communities less as they become wealthier 

Care to give: Studies find that getting richer often  means getting stingier and lonelier because people require communities less as  they become wealthier

 

‘The frequency of the word “get” went up, and  the frequency of the word “give” went down,’ Greenfield told NPR.

Greenfield, a researcher with UCLA’s  department of Psychology, used Google’s  Ngram viewer to assess changes in  word use over the years.

 

‘Words that would show an individualistic  orientation became more frequent,’ Greenfield said. ‘Examples of those words  were “individual,” “self,” “unique.” Words that would represent a more communal  or more family orientation went down in frequency. Some examples of those words  are “give,” “obliged,” “belong.”’

Greenfield’s findings also use her forty years of tracking families in Chiapas, Mexico, where she  found that as villagers grew richer, tendencies toward individualism grew  stronger and community bonds became weaker.

Make more, give less: A study in 2001 found that the less money a household makes, the higher percentage of their income they contribute to charity 

Make more, give less: A study in 2001 found that the  less money a household makes, the higher percentage of their income they  contribute to charity

 

 

 

And Greenfield is not alone in her assessment  that poorer people are more communal.

‘I saw it personally — I feel it in myself,’  said UC Berkeley researcher Dacher Keltner. ‘That somehow, when I am thinking  hard about making more money and rising in wealth and enjoying materialistic  benefits, I do feel personally that I am not as responsive to the needs of  others.’

Keltner grew up poor and says he frequently  attended barbecues and other community events. As he’s become wealthier and more  independent, those backyard cook-outs have become much less frequent.

To give or receive? Greenfiled assessed a million American books and found that the use of 'give' has declined markedly since 1800 

To give or receive? Greenfiled assessed a million  American books and found that the use of ‘give’ has declined markedly since  1800

 

 

Still going: After the 1970s, the word 'get' sees a spike in use in American books, while give continues to drop 

Still going: After the 1970s, the word ‘get’ sees a  spike in use in American books, while give continues to drop

 

The professor of psychology studied money’s  effect on individualism and generosity. He found that increased wealth leads to  less generosity, charitableness, trust, and helpfulness.

‘In just about every way you can study it,’  he said. ‘Our lower-class individuals volunteer more, they give more of their  resources — they’re more generous.’

Both researchers have concluded that the poor  simply need social connections more, that they’re more reliable on the community  safety net.

‘The wife may make the clothes for the whole  family,’ Greenfield found while studying the Mexican village. ‘The husband grows  food and builds the shelter for the whole family. Therefore giving, social  obligation, belonging to a family are very important.’

America’s wealth has come at a price, said  Keltner.

‘As we rise in wealth, along with that rise  in wealth comes ideas of individuality and self-expression and autonomy and  freedom,’ he said. ‘And loneliness.’

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