Hypothetically speaking, what would you do for a large sum of money? Would you punch someone? Vandalize public property? Rob a bank? Kill somebody? Just how much cash would it take to make you commit these acts? Humans are complex beings. If these questions – and the answers – make you uncomfortable, you’re far from alone.
To explore the morals of everyday people, we surveyed 2,000 men and women across the United States. The results yield an intriguing glimpse of our deepest, darkest selves – secrets we wouldn’t confess to our best friends, parents, or partners.
Keep reading for a powerful exploration of moral dilemmas, gender differences, and just how far Americans will go for money.
Would You Commit Illegal Acts for Money?
It’s comforting to think of people as inherently good; however, it turns out that posing moral dilemmas can produce unsettling responses. More than 8 in 10 survey participants say they would run a red light, urinate in public, or steal candy in return for cash. And more than 7 in 10 confessed that they’d punch someone or paint graffiti on public property if paid to do so.
The percentage of would-be criminals decreases as the criminal acts become more serious. However, shockingly, more than 4 in 10 survey respondents admitted that they would murder someone for money. Additionally, more than half would be willing to rob a bank, store, or home for cash. Given the high percentage of people willing to kill, it’s surprising that only around 30 percent of Americans have a police record of some kind.
The Payout Required for Each Misdeed
We’ve established that many people are willing to commit a crime in return for money – but just how much cash would it take to prompt a law-abiding citizen to cross over to the dark side? To murder someone, our respondents said, would require a cool $100 million.
Also on the high side: People want $5 million to rob a bank, $250,000 to rob a store, and $120,000 to steal a car. Interestingly, they’d rob a home for a much smaller payout – just $70,000. What’s the smallest amount of cash necessary to spark a crime? Respondents say they’d steal a piece of candy for $50 – a fairly small payout in return for risking a criminal record.
How Much Money Each Gender Requires
As of 2014, a typical woman working full time earned around 79 cents for every dollar a man earned. However, when it comes to women’s willingness to commit crimes for cash, they demand more – much more. In nearly every hypothetical situation, our female survey respondents required greater compensation than men: $100 more to run a red light, $800 more to urinate in public, and $500 more to punch someone.
And when it comes to serious crimes, women really want more cash. Female respondents need $50,000 more to rob a home, $150,000 more to steal a car, $400,000 more to rob a store, and $6 million more to rob a bank. As for the ultimate crime: Men would murder someone for $100 million, while women wouldn’t kill unless the payout reached $500 million.
Which Gender Is Likelier to Break the Law for Cash?
Across the board, male survey participants were more likely to say they would commit an illegal act in return for payment. Except for one hypothetical situation (killing someone), more than half of men said they would commit every crime – in most cases, well over half. However, less than half of women say they would commit serious acts such as robbery and car theft.
Both genders had the same top three crimes: 88 percent of men say they’d pee in public compared with 74 percent of women; 88 percent of men would run a red light compared with 77 percent of women; and nearly 85 percent would steal candy compared with 75 percent of women.
When it came to murdering for money, 46 percent of men said they’d kill someone compared with 34 percent of women. According to the FBI, just over 90 percent of murderers are men (in cases in which the gender of the murderer is known).
Likeliest Crime by Age
Does a person’s generation affect their willingness to break the law in return for money? When we posed scenarios, each generation was likeliest to commit the same crimes – only in a slightly different order. Running a red light is the No. 1 crime that Millennials (ages 18 to 34) and Baby Boomers (ages 52 to 69) would be willing to commit; however, Generation Xers (ages 35 to 51) would prefer to urinate in public for cash. Perhaps those who peg Xers as reluctant to grow up aren’t completely off base. (Let’s just hope they live in New York City, where public urination is no longer a misdemeanor.)
On the other hand, both Baby Boomers and Gen Xers would rather run a red light or pee in public than steal a piece of candy. Urinating in public is Millennials’ last choice; they’d rather steal candy. Perhaps stealing a piece of candy doesn’t seem that big of a deal to the generation known for sharing cable passwords and illegally downloading music.
Each Region’s Likelihood to Kill
At some point, you may have uttered the words: “I’d kill for that kind of cash,” in regards to someone else’s bank account. But who among us would really kill for a payout?
Interestingly, nearly 45 percent of people from the West North Central region and just over 44 percent from the East North Central region would murder for money. This result is somewhat surprising, given the Midwest’s reputation for strong moral values.
On the other hand, only around 36 percent of Mountain region residents would kill someone for financial gain. The East South Central and West South Central regions were just slightly more likely to murder.
Each Region’s Propensity for Violence
Many people have daydreamed about popping someone in the nose, but it’s safe to say most wouldn’t actually do it. However, if offered cash, nearly 78 percent of people from the West North Central region would punch someone, as would 76 percent of East North Central region residents. (What happened to “Minnesota Nice”?)
In the East South Central region, only around 64 percent of people would punch for a payout. New England and the West South Central region are the only other two spots where fewer than 70 percent of people would commit assault for cash.
Comparing Morals of Potential Murderers
How far will people go for money? As mentioned above, 41 percent of our respondents said they’d be willing to kill someone for cash. We compared the results between the respondents who said yes to murder and those who said no. Across the board, 96 percent or more of the potential killers would be willing to commit the other illegal acts we posed to them.
Only around 19 percent of the respondents who said “no” to murder would rob a bank – but 97 percent of our “yes” respondents would. Only around a quarter of our “no respondents” would steal a car or rob a home, but 98 percent of our “yes” respondents would. Strikingly, nearly 100 percent of those willing to kill are willing to punch – but only 53 percent of “no” respondents would assault someone for cash.
Does a Criminal Record Affect Responses?
To see if a survey respondent’s criminal history (or lack thereof) might enter into the equation, we compared the results of those who had been convicted of a crime and the results of those who had not. For every illegal scenario we posed, a slightly higher percentage of people with criminal records said they’d commit a crime for cash. However, the percentages don’t differ nearly as much as those between people who would agree to kill and those who wouldn’t.
Protection Against Crimes
It’s surprising and a bit disconcerting to find out just how many people say they would be willing to break the law for money. More than 80 percent of our respondents admit they would commit minor infractions for cash, and a shocking 41 percent say they’d kill another person if offered enough money.
We can’t be sure how many people would actually go through with these hypothetical scenarios – and we hope that nobody would. However, one thing is certain: You deserve to feel safe in your own home. At GetSafe, we care about safety – and we want to empower you to protect yourself and your loved ones. Visit us today to learn about our surprisingly affordable DIY security system – you don’t need to sign a contract, and you can install the system by yourself in minutes.
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