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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. Bellemare, C. & Kroger, S., 2004. "On Representative Social Capital," Discussion Paper, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research 2004-57, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  2. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Erik Hurst & Nikolai Roussanov, 2009. "Conspicuous Consumption and Race," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 124(2), pages 425-467, May.
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  4. Sutter, Matthias & Kocher, Martin G., 2007. "Trust and trustworthiness across different age groups," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 364-382, May.
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  6. 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, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 3858, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Uri Gneezy, 2005. "Deception: The Role of Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 384-394, March.
  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, German Council for Social and Economic Data (RatSWD) 139, German Council for Social and Economic Data (RatSWD).
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