As We Become Richer, Do We Become Stingier?


Patricia Greenfield has tracked families in Chiapas, Mexico, over four decades. Many were very poor when she started her study. Slowly, over time, they grew wealthier. Along the way, Greenfield noticed something: As the people she followed grew richer, they became more individualistic. Community ties frayed and weakened.

Greenfield expanded her findings to form a more general theory about the effects that wealth has on people: “We become more individualistic, less family and community oriented.”

In a new study, the UCLA researcher makes the argument that the same thing has happened in the U.S. over a longer period.

Greenfield bases her finding on an analysis she conducted of more than 1 million books published in the U.S. between 1800 and 2000. Greenfield used the Google Ngram viewer, a tool that allows rapid keyword searches of the frequency of words in the books.

Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, said his own life reflected the changes Greenfield and Putnam observe.

Read the whole story: NPR

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