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Selfishness linked to fewer kids and smaller paychecks

A study tackles selfishness from an economic standpoint

Photo (c) Geber86 - Getty Images
Researchers at Stockholm University, the Institute for Futures Studies, and the University of South Carolina recently conducted a study that aims to explore the effects that being selfish -- and conversely, unselfish -- has on people’s paychecks and how many kids they have.

The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and is based off of previous research that shows how being unselfish positively affects people’s interpersonal relationships and physical and mental health. This study, however, looks to discover how selfishness affects people’s wallets.

Fewer kids, smaller paychecks

The researchers conducted four separate studies that examined how selfishness affected economic standing for both Americans and Europeans. Selfishness was determined partly by self-reported actions and partly by attitudes and beliefs, while unselfishness was defined as helping others because of a genuine interest in their well-being.

In analyzing the data, the researchers found that unselfish people are more likely to have both higher paychecks and more kids, while the opposite was true for what the study determined were selfish people. The results proved to be different than what many of the participants believed, as many assumed selfish people would have fewer kids, but many thought they’d have higher paychecks as a result.

“In a separate study we examined the expectations of ordinary people to see if their expectations aligned with our data,” said researcher Pontus Strimling. “The results of this study showed that people generally have the correct expectation that selfish people have fewer children, but erroneously believe that selfish people will make more money. It is nice to see that generosity so often pays off in the long run.”

According to fellow researcher Kimmo Eriksson, the results were the same across borders.

“The result is clear in both the American and the European data,” Eriksson said. “The most unselfish people have the most children and the moderately unselfish receive the highest salaries. And we also find this result over time -- the people who are most generous at one point in time have the largest salary increases when the researchers revisit them later in time.”

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