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Why people with fewer resources are more altruistic

Why people with fewer resources are more altruistic

June 17, 2024

Decades ago, it was believed that human beings base their management of resources basically from an economic calculation based on costs and benefits . According to this idea, everything we do in relation to others responds to a previous reflection on what we lose or what we gain by choosing each option.

However ... where is the altruism in this formula? If the conception of the human mind based on economic calculations has lost strength, it is partly because many of the things we do when interacting with each other have more to do with empathy, feelings of identification and the way of conceiving coexistence than with the will to gain power and not lose what we have. Y the fact that the people who have least are the most altruistic It is an example of this.


  • Related article: "Altruism: development of the prosocial self in children"

Altruism in people with less money

If we act in a completely rational way and follow the economic calculations (that is, guided by the logic of numbers) we should expect that the richest people are those who are more willing to be altruistic and give up part of their belongings, and that poor people were the most reluctant to share, given that they are struggling to secure their means of subsistence. However, several studies indicate that, beyond the theory, in the real world the same thing happens: people with less money are those who give more to others , and they do it voluntarily.


For example, in an investigation whose results were published in the year 200 in the journal Health Psychology It was found that people with a lower purchasing power (determined from variables such as income level, education and the type of trade or profession) were more willing to give money to charitable causes, in addition to tend to adopt a more open and receptive to unknown people who need help.

On the other hand, the tendency to be more altruistic of people from more humble socioeconomic backgrounds has been recorded even in preschool children. How is this explained? Of course, not attending to rationality, understood as a series of strategies to preserve what you have and earn more. Let's see what it is due to.

Less resources, more social assets

In practice, who has few material resources, is not limited to living the lives of the middle classes or wealthy but with much less means: if way of living is qualitatively different, and the way in which social relations are established is one of This differences.


Poverty is the default situation in which the majority of the population has lived through the centuries. Wealth, or the ability to live without great economic concerns, is the exception, not the norm. So that, large communities of people have been seen at the same time in poverty , and through the generations they have done something about it: to associate, create neighborhood networks and protection, which can reach out to people from other communities.

As there are no habits that do not modify ideas in the long run, communities of people with few resources have internalized the idea that individualism is something harmful that brings problems in the face of the threat of extreme poverty, so it is necessary to adopt a mentality collectivist. Hence, the habit of helping others becomes something perfectly expected in any context in which someone needs help. It is a cultural tendency and identification among equals, a necessary logic for groups of people without resources to be stable and stable .

On the other hand, people of middle or upper class living in cities have little reason to create complex social ties of solidarity, so that aid is seen as a personal decision, something unrelated to the functioning of the community.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Aporophobia (rejection of the poor): causes of this phenomenon"

It is advisable not to mythologize

This type of psychological phenomena can lead us to think that people from humbler origins live a more authentic, honest or even happy life: after all, it would be more frequent to behave in the way we identify as ethically correct. However, it is worth remembering that poverty has very negative impacts on all areas of life : health, education and ability to raise children.


Dematerialization: Humanity’s Biggest Surprise | Andrew McAfee | TEDxCambridge (June 2024).


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