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Accepting Inequality Deters Responsibility: How Power Distance Decreases Charitable Behavior


  • Karen Page Winterich
  • Yinlong Zhang


Could power distance, which is the extent that inequality is expected and accepted, explain why some countries and consumers are more likely to engage in prosocial behavior, including donations of both money and time? This research proposes that higher power distance results in weaker perceptions of responsibility to aid others, which decreases charitable behavior. Both correlational and causal evidence is provided in a series of five studies that examine country-level power distance as well as individual and temporarily salient power distance belief. Consistent with the mediating role of perceived responsibility, results reveal that uncontrollable needs and communal relationship norms are boundary conditions that overcome the negative effect of power distance on charitable behavior. These results explain differences in charitable giving across cultures and provide implications for nonprofit organizations soliciting donations.

Suggested Citation

  • Karen Page Winterich & Yinlong Zhang, 2014. "Accepting Inequality Deters Responsibility: How Power Distance Decreases Charitable Behavior," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(2), pages 274-293.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jconrs:doi:10.1086/675927
    DOI: 10.1086/675927

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    Cited by:

    1. Wang, Jessie J. & Lalwani, Ashok K., 2019. "The distinct influence of power distance perception and power distance values on customer satisfaction in response to loyalty programs," International Journal of Research in Marketing, Elsevier, vol. 36(4), pages 580-596.
    2. Wang, Jessie J. & Torelli, Carlos J. & Lalwani, Ashok K., 2020. "The interactive effect of power distance belief and consumers’ status on preference for national (vs. private-label) brands," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 1-12.
    3. Miska, Christof & Szőcs, Ilona & Schiffinger, Michael, 2018. "Culture’s effects on corporate sustainability practices: A multi-domain and multi-level view," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 263-279.
    4. Shavitt, Sharon & Barnes, Aaron J., 2020. "Culture and the Consumer Journey," Journal of Retailing, Elsevier, vol. 96(1), pages 40-54.
    5. Jin, Fei & Zhu, Huawei & Tu, Ping, 2020. "How recipient group membership affects the effect of power states on prosocial behaviors," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 307-315.
    6. Khalil, Mary & Khan, Saira & Septianto, Felix, 2020. "Effects of power and implicit theories on donation," Australasian marketing journal, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 98-107.
    7. Yong Zhang & Chuling Lin & Jialing Yang, 2019. "Time or Money? The Influence of Warm and Competent Appeals on Donation Intentions," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(22), pages 1-1, November.
    8. Simon, Mark & Stanton, Steven J. & Townsend, Janell D. & Kim, John, 2019. "A multi-method study of social ties and crowdfunding success: Opening the black box to get the cash inside," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 206-214.
    9. Arvid Erlandsson & Fredrik Björklund & Martin Bäckström, 2017. "Choice-justifications after allocating resources in helping dilemmas," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 12(1), pages 60-80, January.
    10. Bullard, Olya & Penner, Sara, 2017. "A regulatory-focused perspective on philanthropy: Promotion focus motivates giving to prevention-framed causes," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 173-180.
    11. Huachao Gao & Karen Page Winterich & Yinlong Zhang, 2016. "All That Glitters Is Not Gold: How Others’ Status Influences the Effect of Power Distance Belief on Status Consumption," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 43(2), pages 265-281.
    12. Zhu, Huawei & Wong, Nancy & Huang, Minxue, 2019. "Does relationship matter? How social distance influences perceptions of responsibility on anthropomorphized environmental objects and conservation intentions," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 62-70.
    13. Angel Sharma, 2016. "Managing diversity and equality in the workplace," Cogent Business & Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 3(1), pages 1212682-121, December.
    14. Matthew A. Maxwell-Smith & Paul J. Conway & Joshua D. Wright & James M. Olson, 2018. "Translating Environmental Ideologies into Action: The Amplifying Role of Commitment to Beliefs," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 153(3), pages 839-858, December.
    15. Tae Hyun Baek & Sukki Yoon & Seeun Kim & Yeonshin Kim, 2019. "Social exclusion influences on the effectiveness of altruistic versus egoistic appeals in charitable advertising," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 30(1), pages 75-90, March.
    16. Edlira Shehu & Jan U. Becker & Ann-Christin Langmaack & Michel Clement, 2016. "The Brand Personality of Nonprofit Organizations and the Influence of Monetary Incentives," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 138(3), pages 589-600, October.

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