Sociological, social psychological and economic research on the nexus between socioeconomic status and prosociality has so far provided contradictory findings. Some studies suggest that actors with a high socioeconomic status act more egoistically than actors with a lower socioeconomic status. Other studies find the opposite to be true. In contrast to previous research, which has worked with one-dimensional measures for socioeconomic status, this study examines prosocial behavior among occupational groups that have regular real-life contact in their workspace. About 150 hospital employees (physicians, nursing staff and nursing students) participated in experiments on altruistic giving in dictator games. The findings are surprisingly strong and clear-cut: Actors with higher social status act more prosocial than low-status actors. Furthermore, we find hardly any in-group effects, which have been repeatedly postulated. Our findings support the claim that high status promotes prosocial behavior. Also, they indicate that the inconclusive and in part contradictory findings provided by previous research stem to a considerable degree from deficient measures of social status and problematic experimental designs.
Liebe, U., Naumann, E., & Tutić, A. (2017). Sozialer Status und prosoziales Handeln: Ein Quasi-Experiment im Krankenhaus. Kolner Zeitschrift Fur Soziologie Und Sozialpsychologie, 69(1), 109–129. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11577-016-0399-9