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The Rich Steal More Than the Poor

Evidence suggests that the rich steal more than the poor. Although shoplifting transcends categories, the rich actually do steal more than the poor. The study cited most often, in the American Journal of Psychology, states that people with incomes of $70,000 shoplift 30% more than those earning $20,000 a year.

A federal lawyer proved that point when she was caught swiping $257.99 worth of cosmetics from a store in Virginia. More recently, Sgt. Eva Pena of the New York police department was suspended from her job after she was allegedly caught stealing clothing valued at $359 from a Macy’s store. This wasn’t a crime of poverty. Pena, whose salary was over $100,000 a year, drove to court in a white Mercedes to enter her not guilty plea.

Psychologist Stanton Samenow tells of a patient that he treated several years ago:

He had more than enough money to buy the item. He took it for the thrill of it, to outsmart the establishment. He enjoyed every aspect of shoplifting: scanning the aisles for the objects, looking for the exits, trying to outsmart the surveillance and store personnel, the theft and the getaway. This was all about excitement and building up one’s self-worth.

One theory suggests that low-income people are less likely to cheat and steal because they are more invested in their communities and fear being publicly humiliated. Conversely, the rich harbor feelings of entitlement and self-interest, which weakens their moral compass.

Possible Preaching Angle:

The story demonstrates that the emptiness of riches drives people to pursue of any kind of euphoria, even if it is illegal. There is no satisfaction in money and possessions (or any temptation of the flesh) only an endless desire for more. “Whoever loves money never has enough” (Eccl. 5:10)


Rene Chun, “Rich Robbers; Why Do Wealthy People Shoplift?” The Guardian (11-4-19); CJ, “Rich Thieves,” Mockingbird (11-15-19)

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