Do Kind People With Bigger Families Earn More Money?

Ray Williams
2 min readMar 19, 2024

Research suggests that altruistic individuals often experience higher levels of life satisfaction despite the subjective nature of such assessments. A team of researchers conducted a study examining the connection between selflessness, wealth, and family size. They found that kind and generous individuals tend to have more children and earn higher incomes than their selfish counterparts.

Contrary to common assumptions that selfish individuals are likely to be wealthier, the research led by Kimmo Eriksson at Stockholm University reveals that being altruistic can result in financial benefits. Published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the study comprised five investigations delved into this phenomenon by analyzing large-scale data sets, including two longitudinal studies tracking individuals and families over several years.

One significant part of the study utilized the U.K. Household Longitudinal Study to compare altruistic actions reported in 2010 with the participants’ income and number of children in 2016. Altruism was quantified by charitable donations and volunteer time. The findings indicated that altruistic individuals saw a more significant increase in both income and the number of children than those who were less generous.

A parallel study in the United States, utilizing data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics over 14 years, echoed these results. Participants exhibiting the highest levels of altruism had the most children and the highest income levels. The research also suggested that highly altruistic people might gravitate towards lower-paying jobs that offer opportunities to aid others, explaining why moderately prosocial individuals had the highest incomes.

The study speculated on the relationship between selfishness and lower fertility, suggesting that selfish individuals may have poorer-quality relationships and fewer opportunities to have children. Additionally, the inclination towards not having children among the selfish could be attributed to the significant personal sacrifices required in raising a child.

Despite these findings, the researchers argue that an evolution towards less selfish behaviors in humans is unlikely, attributing societal levels of selfish behavior more to norms, institutions, and psychological factors rather than genetic predisposition.

This research challenges the notion that self-serving behaviors are more profitable, suggesting a potential shift in societal norms if altruism’s financial and reproductive advantages become more widely recognized. This shift could pave the way for societal norms that favor altruistic behaviors, possibly influencing various societal and cultural practices.

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Ray Williams

Author/ Executive Coach-Helping People Live Better Lives and Serve Others