Thursday, October 2, 2008

Things I learned in grad school: more money doesn't make people generous

Grad school lesson #2:

In my third year, my graduate institution went from requiring grad students to purchase health insurance (unless you could prove other coverage) through automatic deduction from our paychecks to covering our health insurance as a benefit. So it was a $75/month raise when it happened--which when you're making $900/month, is a pretty big raise.

So it was election time, 1996. One of my lab mates and I were discussing taxes--he was taking the position that if people paid less in taxes, they would donate more, so government services wouldn't be necessary (because charities would be able to do more).

So I asked him, "So how are you spending your extra $75 a month?".
He replied, "Huh??"
So I explained the raise he had just gotten in August, and asked again, how he had spent the $300 he had received over the last four months.

Lesson #2: If people aren't generous with what they've already been given, they're not going to be generous when they have more.

No comments: