India, Aug. 29 — Climbing up the social ladder is a natural craving for the poor but what about those already near the top of the ladder? New research suggests that the rich have an even greater desire than the poor to continue climbing up the social ladder.
To show this, researchers Zhechen Wang and others from the University of Queensland, conducted surveys and experiments in the United States and used data from the World Values Survey, a large-scale global survey covering 150,000 participants from 78 countries, to examine the relationship between social class and the desire for wealth and status.
They find that, across countries, it is the upper class who yearn for more wealth and status, suggesting a ‘have more, want more’ phenomenon. According to the authors, the rich want more because their wealth and status is essentially linked to their identity.
For the upper class, their wealth and status are how they differentiate themselves from the rest of society and they are deeply attached to their worth in society. Economic loss and the subsequent diminished status are not mere losses for them, but also a threat to their identity. Thus, enhancing this wealth consolidates their positions among the elites and creates a self-reinforcing cycle of desiring more and more wealth. The authors suggest that this unrelenting desire could explain why many rich people pursue wealth even by unethical means.
These findings have implications for widening inequality in societies. The authors suggest that inequality should be looked at through the perspective of the greater desires for greater wealth from the rich.
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