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June 25, 2013

Scientists Study the Negative Effects of Income Inequality

Watch 'Pernicious' Effects of Economic Inequality on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

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Wealthy individuals are more likely to break traffic laws and cheat at games, according to a controversial new study from professors at the University of California at Berkeley.

Critics accuse the Berkeley scientists of junk science and perpetuating a politically liberal agenda, but they stick by their findings.

“Let me tell you, we didn’t expect to find this,” said Paul Piff of UC Berkeley. “Our findings apply to both liberals and conservatives. It doesn’t matter who you are. If you’re wealthy, you’re more likely to show these patterns of results.”

The researchers also rigged the game of Monopoly to make one person feel richer and another poorer. The experiment was to test the effects of income inequality, which is currently the worst it has been in a century.

Despite the actual socio-economic status of the people playing the game, they assumed specific traits during play.

“We found consistently with people who were the rich players that they actually started to become, in their behavior, as if they were like rich people in real life,” said Piff.

“If I take someone who is rich and make them feel psychologically a little less well-off, they become way more generous, way more charitable, way more likely to offer help to another person.”

Warm up questions

1. What is income inequality?

2. What does it mean for a person to feel entitled?

3. Who do you think gives a larger percentage of their earnings to charity, someone who makes $1 million or someone who makes $20,000? Why?

Discussion questions

1. What did you find to be the most surprising part of this video?

2. Why do you think the results of this study made so many people angry or emotional?

3. Do you think the results of this study are important? Explain

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