Nature of rich-poor divide
THE RICH-POOR divide is fundamental to human nature, a study has found. The experiments show that people accept the redistribution of wealth downwards, but only to a limited extent.
And there is widespread support for the idea that those on higher incomes are more deserving. The findings, from a study published in the journal Nature, emerged from a game in which players redistributed cash rewards to others.
Dr Benjamin Ho, study co-author and associate professor of behavioural economics at Vassar College in New York, said: “Attempts to take from the rich and give to the poor could lead to violence that makes everybody worse off. You see this in the animal kingdom where wolf packs and chickens will fight to create a pecking order, but once a pecking order is created, they will fight to preserve it so as not to upset the balance.”
The researchers found that aversion to “rank reversal” begins at the age of just six.
Adults and older children were often happy to redistribute cash payments between unknown players in a game, taking from the rich to give to the poor. But when this threatened to upset that order they were 11.5% more likely to refuse.
Professor Nigel Nicholson, an evolutionary theorist at London Business School, said: “As evolutionary science and numerous research studies shows, status ranking really matters.”