According to researchers at the University of California-Berkeley, people who grew up in economically comfortable circumstances are less attuned to the suffering of other people. In multiple trials that involved both questionnaires and physical-response tests, the researchers found that young adults whose upbringing involved some degree of financial struggle were quicker and more likely to register signs of empathy than young adults who came from affluent backgrounds.
Such conclusions are especially relevant now, as the Occupy movement continues to focus national attention and criticism on the growing divide between rich and poor.
While some wealthy people have defended themselves as merely embodying the ideals of American capitalism — a system where, the argument goes, anyone can make it to the top if they’re willing to work hard — many Occupy protesters have offered a less flattering theory: that the rich, as a class, simply aren’t concerned with the well-being of anyone else.
Why the 1 percent are only 1 percent