Good Rich, Bad Rich: Perceptions About the Extremely Wealthy and Their Sources of Wealth


  • Lyle Sussman University of Louisville
  • David Dubofsky University of Louisville
  • Alan S. Levitan University of Louisville
  • Hassan Swidan University of Louisville



Character and Competence, Earned vs. Unearned Wealth, Horatio Alger Effect, Justification of Wealth, Perceptions of Wealth


We compare and contrast Americans’ perceptions of four sources of extreme wealth: Executive, Financial Trader, Entrepreneur, and Heir, and find positive perceptions of the Entrepreneur’s wealth, and negative perceptions of the Heir and the Financial Trader. Respondents read biographies of each archetype, controlling for quantity of wealth and personal attributes, recording their impressions of the character and competence of the individual and the justification of that person’s wealth.   Findings are discussed in the context of socio-cultural norms affecting our perceptions of the extremely wealthy and the sources of their wealth.

Author Biographies

  • Lyle Sussman, University of Louisville
    Professor of Management
  • David Dubofsky, University of Louisville
    Professor of Finance
  • Alan S. Levitan, University of Louisville
    Professor of Accountancy
  • Hassan Swidan, University of Louisville
    Research Assistant in College of Business


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