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Contact Heterogeneity as a Mediator of the Relationship between Social Class and Altruistic Giving

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Tutić Andreas, Liebe Ulf,
Project Social status and prosociality: A cross-cultural study in four selected countries
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World
Volume (Issue) 6
Page(s) 2378023120 - 2378023120
Title of proceedings Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World
DOI 10.1177/2378023120969330

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Research on the relationship between social class and altruistic giving has provided inconsistent evidence. Using the dictator game, in which one participant is endowed with a certain amount of money and has to allocate this amount between herself and another individual, several studies found that higher-class actors have a lower tendency toward altruistic giving than lower-class actors; other studies found the opposite pattern. We show that social class has a positive effect on altruistic giving in the dictator game with a sizeable sample of residents of the United States using both an objective measure of social class—that is, a composite of income, education, and occupational prestige—and a subjective measure. Shedding more light on the mechanisms underlying the positive effect of social class, it is demonstrated that class affects altruistic giving not so much by differences in empathic concern but by differences in the marginal utility of money and contact heterogeneity. It is argued that the latter effect can be derived from Collins’s theory of interaction rituals and class cultures.