The Money-Empathy Gap

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lisa Miller, contributing editor at New York magazine, discusses whether having more money makes people less kind. Her article "The Money-Empathy Gap" appeared in the July 1 issue of New York magazine.


Lisa Miller

Comments [27]

Phil V from New York, NY

Several, several problems with this idea. This study is flawed in many ways, not the least of which is Ms. Miller's casual pasting together of mildly related ideas to form a theory and then when it doesn't work, saying it's not an exact science.
Others have mentioned this, but indie music means "independent" not "individual". How you can use an example as a major part of your argument and not do the most basic research to find out what "indie" means not just in music but in several industries (designer, filmmaker, web designer, game designer, on and on and on...) is beyond me and puts a football sized hole in your argument. And if you DO know what indie means and you're choosing to extrapolate the "individual" meaning from it just to suit your theory, then WNYC should be ashamed of themselves for thinking this was worth 30 minutes of our time.
Another thing you're not considering, rich people want to have everything the same not the other way around. I don't care how many tests you've done with pencils and cars, every rich person I see in New York has to have an iPhone, use the same kind of computers and laptops and generally don't think what the BEST item is to own because they just want the ones their friends and colleagues have. It is among people of more modest means where you see variety in the things they possess. I see LOTS of young adults from typically lower social classes with blackberries, Android phones, even mobile phones in addition to iPhones. But not having money causes you to have to be creative or pay for what you can afford. It tends OFTEN to be the case that those WITH money just want what their friends will accept. Being "accepted" is something poorer people can't be bothered with cause they've got to, you know, eat.
There are some interesting observations here, but for the most part, you are walking a very thin thread that begins to fray the moment you tug on the theories with any degree of force.

Aug. 07 2012 11:31 AM

I feel like there's a bunch of holes in this story. A lot of the cases she brought up, especially when applied to the real world, are not mutually exclusive. I do agree with the fact that it is much harder to become upwardly mobile in this country, and even with this, a lot of Americans are still not fully aware of the class system.

Aug. 01 2012 11:12 AM
Zikka from Nashville

Indy music/rock--is not 'individual music' as Lisa describes but independent music. The origination of it comes from musicians tried to put out their music without having to count on major music distributors' picking their performance.

Aug. 01 2012 02:00 AM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

The point is that the wealthy DO shelter themselves financially (makes sense), and to the point of the social science studies, the article and this show, they ALSO do so emotionally. Or as the top of this page states, it makes them less "kind" towards others. True or not?

Aug. 01 2012 01:18 AM
DTorres from Manhattan

I live in a housing project,
344 East 28th Street,
where the Maintenance man gets cheered on,
every time he goes to the office,
after emptying out an apartment.

It seems the wealthy really want
this single NYCHA apartment building,
even though most of the apartments going
up in Manhattan are for the rich.

Jul. 31 2012 07:36 PM


Have you ever been asked by multiple family members to "help them out" with various gambling problems, reckless investments, and business 'opportunities'? Sometimes, despite the fact that saying 'yes' to the barrage of requests would leave you broke, the family members resent you for not actually having enough money to solve the(ir) world's problems. So, sometimes its better to keep some distance rather than squander your wealth to enable someone to give Vegas one last shot, or score one last kilo of cocaine, or quit their job to open a chain of ostrich burger drive-thrus. Money changes everyone in a family -- and not just those that have it.

Jul. 31 2012 04:55 PM

The New York Times: Which Americans Are Most Generous, and to Whom

Jul. 31 2012 04:32 PM

That has nothing to do with how generous a person is. Most people who become rich tend to want to stay rich. Wouldn't you?

Jul. 31 2012 04:29 PM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

@ David - Good for you being so fair and lacking in bigotry.

A question: Do you deny the social science findings that those from higher socioeconomic classes desire to shelter and individuate themselves and their families?

Jul. 31 2012 04:07 PM

So I guess all of you people on this thread who are disparaging rich people are happy that you are not rich? On the one hand, you whine because more people aren't rich in this country. Then you whine about these people when they become rich. Perhaps you think that no one should become wealthy because they'll just wind up being selfish. (I guess all poor people and all middle-class people are alike too, e.g., Jews, Blacks, Gays, WASPs, etc.)

Not being "bigoted" (in the sense of classifying a whole group of people by some stereotype), I accept each person on an individual basis. I've known generous rich people and stingy rich people, and I've known generous middle-class people and stingy middle-class people. (Haven't met too many poor people, but I'm sure the same goes for them too.)

Jul. 31 2012 03:46 PM

...really? a b_tch fest about the bad manners of the wealthy? how about the bad manners of the poor? don't even get me started.

are we really going to speak in caricature of the rich and not of other groups?

what about the "ghetto" SUV that runs a red light? shouldn't we differentiate between the newly rich and and the old rich?

what about drive-by shootings? i consider them ill mannered.

Jul. 31 2012 02:18 PM
Jeff Pappas from Dumbo

@ Amy
I actually thought of that but in conversation all goes to what He has done, and as an observer I kinda let it ride. Its very sad.
I may try do a documentary on him

Jul. 31 2012 02:02 PM
Mike from Tribeca

I recommend Paul Fussell's 1983 book "Class: A Guide Through the American Status System," in which, among many other things, he points out that the wealthy buy and wear Gucci while the poor wear t-shirts that bear the Gucci label.

Jul. 31 2012 02:00 PM
R. McGeddon

I am so downloading this.

Jul. 31 2012 01:58 PM
Tony from Canarsie

Interesting interview and guest. Pardon my earlier comment, I obviously misheard. Now I'm off to eat the rich for lunch.

Jul. 31 2012 01:56 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Jeff, any chance your friend could introduce you to his Wall St. friend? (Or would he ignore that too?)

Jul. 31 2012 01:55 PM
gene from NYC

I had 2 incidents just yesterday.

In the first, I was leaving the gym and held the door for this guy yakking on his cell phone; it was clear there was going to be no acknowledgement, so I just let it close on his heels.

A half hour later, I had a lot of time-consuming items, fruit, etc., at the grocery store. I let the guy behind me, who had one item, go ahead. He was properly appreciative. Then came up a woman, again yakking on her cell, and I specifically did NOT let her go ahead. And it took me a LONG time to get through.

Rudeness should never be tolerated.

When I was a server, my motto was:

"If you can't reward the good and punish the wicked, there's no point in waiting on tables."

Jul. 31 2012 01:52 PM
I'm better than you

Do rich people build distance because they are more likely to come across people wanting something from them?

Jul. 31 2012 01:49 PM
judy from greenpoint

"if you want to know what God thinks about money just look at the people he gave it to."- Dorothy Parker

Jul. 31 2012 01:49 PM
John A

1983: Song "White Horse" by Laid Back:
"If you want to be rich, You got to be a bitch"
I am implying that this mentality is a "passing fad".
And, roll clip.

Jul. 31 2012 01:49 PM

My wife and I recently had a baby. Our less affluent friends and family sent us lovely baby gifts. Our wealthier friends and family sent us ... nothing.

Jul. 31 2012 01:46 PM
Tony from Tribeca

Maybe I misheard, but did your guest start off the interview by asserting that sociologists only began looking into the gap between rich and poor last year?

Either way, I'll take Charles Dickens and Jonathan Swift over lab experiments any day.

Jul. 31 2012 01:37 PM

What about empathy in different cultures?
Is there a correlation between Asian Indians rising in the Republican Party and the extreme inequality of India and their religiously ordained caste system?

Jul. 31 2012 01:36 PM
Kate from Washington Heights

Any gender differences?

Jul. 31 2012 01:33 PM
John A

Where to start? By sharing in this segment. Thanks for it WNYC and NYmag.

Jul. 31 2012 01:32 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Those who clawed their way to the top, often using questionable means, can become paranoid of others doing the same to take them down. Those who have made it by sheer talent, or luck, are less so.

Jul. 31 2012 01:27 PM
Jeff Pappas from Dumbo

As an Artist and independent Photojournalist my entire adult life has been a financial struggle.
A few years ago I reconnected with a High School buddy who had become a multi millionair who probably has a net worth of 80 - 200 Million. He made some important discoveries as a molecular biologist , then had a friend connection on Wall st who got him hooked into Bio tech analysis. Boom $$$$.
So funny that when I bring up my truth and pitch ideas he either just ignores them or brushes them aside ! Cant He see how his connection changed his life. Granted he is friendly etc, but I think there is a disconnect here...
In perspective I have both recieved $ from other friends who are just middle class, I have given $ 200 to a friend who needed to make a mortgage payment when at that time I had $ 2000 in the bank. Lets talk about % hey..
Yes the Wealthy are Greedy .

Jul. 31 2012 12:34 PM

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