IACM 2022 Abstract Book »
Costly Advantageous Connections: Network Social Class Reduces Prosocial Behavior
Having friends in high places is often considered necessary to achieve success. Despite the tangible benefits that upper-class network contacts offer, we find that these networks have a dark side: the reduced potential for prosocial behavior. We propose that because upper-class individuals are less prosocial in their behavior in general, individuals with many upper-class contacts will perceive their network contacts as less prosocial. This perception of reduced prosociality will lead the focal person to view the reduced prosociality as normative, ultimately decreasing his or her tendency to engage in prosocial behavior. To test our core hypothesis that having upper-class contacts increases unethical behavior, we analyzed a unique dataset involving over 15,000 villagers in rural India. Importantly, we demonstrate that the effects of upper-class networks on a focal person’s prosocial behavior occur over and above their own social class, thereby ruling out a class homophily effect.