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Social Class and Un(ethical) Behavior: A Framework, with Evidence from a Large Population Sample

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  • Trautmann, Stefan T.

    (Tilburg University)

  • van de Kuilen, Gijs

    (Tilburg University)

  • Zeckhauser, Richard J.

    (Harvard University)

Abstract

Differences in ethical behavior between members of the upper and lower classes have been at the center of civic debates in recent years. This paper presents a framework for understanding how class affects ethical standards and behaviors. The framework is applied using data from a large Dutch population sample. The data include objective measures of class, survey responses relating to ethical behavior, and results from an experiment designed to probe ethical choices. Ethical behavior proves to be affected by (i) moral values, (ii) social orientation, and (iii) the costs and benefits of taking various actions. Strong class differences emerge in each of these areas, leading to differences in behavior. Moreover, strong differences among different conceptions of class (wealth, education, etc.) produce additional variation. We argue that the relationship between class and ethical behavior is far from a simple pattern; it is a complex mosaic.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government in its series Working Paper Series with number rwp13-004.

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Date of creation: Mar 2013
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp13-004

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  1. Fehr, Ernst & Fischbacher, Urs & Schupp, Jürgen & von Rosenbladt, Bernhard & Wagner, Gert Georg, 2003. "A Nationwide Laboratory Examining Trust and Trustworthiness by Integrating Behavioural Experiments into Representative Surveys," CEPR Discussion Papers 3858, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  4. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher & Bernhard von Rosenbladt & Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, 2003. "A Nation-Wide Laboratory. Examining Trust and Trustworthiness by Integrating Behavioral Experiments into Representative Survey," CESifo Working Paper Series 866, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Erik Hurst & Nikolai Roussanov, 2009. "Conspicuous Consumption and Race," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(2), pages 425-467, May.
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  7. Bellemare, Charles & Kröger, Sabine, 2003. "On Representative Trust," SFB 373 Discussion Papers 2003,27, Humboldt University of Berlin, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
  8. Joseph Henrich & Steve J. Heine & Ara Norenzayan, 2010. "The Weirdest People in the World?," Working Paper Series of the German Council for Social and Economic Data 139, German Council for Social and Economic Data (RatSWD).
  9. Bellemare, Charles & Kröger, Sabine, 2004. "On Representative Social Capital," IZA Discussion Papers 1145, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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