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

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Listed:
  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Trautmann, Stefan T. & van de Kuilen, Gijs & Zeckhauser, Richard J., 2013. "Social Class and Un(ethical) Behavior: A Framework, with Evidence from a Large Population Sample," Working Paper Series rwp13-004, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp13-004
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    File URL: https://research.hks.harvard.edu/publications/workingpapers/citation.aspx?PubId=8871&type=WPN
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    1. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher & Bernhard von Rosenbladt & J�rgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, "undated". "A Nation-Wide Laboratory: Examining trust and trustworthiness by integrating behavioral experiments into representative surveys," IEW - Working Papers 141, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    2. Sutter, Matthias & Kocher, Martin G., 2007. "Trust and trustworthiness across different age groups," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 364-382, May.
    3. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Erik Hurst & Nikolai Roussanov, 2009. "Conspicuous Consumption and Race," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(2), pages 425-467.
    4. Bellemare, Charles & Kroger, Sabine, 2007. "On representative social capital," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 183-202, January.
    5. 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).
    6. Uri Gneezy, 2005. "Deception: The Role of Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 384-394, March.
    7. Bohnet, Iris & Zeckhauser, Richard, 2004. "Trust, risk and betrayal," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 467-484, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Martin Korndörfer & Boris Egloff & Stefan C. Schmukle, 2015. "A Large Scale Test of the Effect of Social Class on Prosocial Behavior," Working Papers 1601, Gutenberg School of Management and Economics, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz.
    2. Martin Korndörfer & Boris Egloff & Stefan C. Schmukle, 2015. "A Large Scale Test of the Effect of Social Class on Prosocial Behavior," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 808, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    3. repec:eee:jeborg:v:148:y:2018:i:c:p:282-300 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Matthew J. Easterbrook & Toon Kuppens & Antony S. R. Manstead, 2016. "The Education Effect: Higher Educational Qualifications are Robustly Associated with Beneficial Personal and Socio-political Outcomes," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 126(3), pages 1261-1298, April.
    5. repec:eee:soceco:v:68:y:2017:i:c:p:130-139 is not listed on IDEAS

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