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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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    Cited by:

    1. Bartoš, Vojtěch, 2021. "Seasonal scarcity and sharing norms," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 185(C), pages 303-316.
    2. Fehr, Dietmar & Rau, Hannes & Trautmann, Stefan T. & Xu, Yilong, 2020. "Inequality, fairness and social capital," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 129(C).
    3. 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.
    4. 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).
    5. Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2014. "On Self-Interest and Greed," CESifo Working Paper Series 4883, CESifo.
    6. Elisabeth Gsottbauer & Daniel Müller & Samuel Müller & Stefan T. Trautmann & Galina Zudenkova, 2020. "Social class and (un)ethical behavior: Causal versus correlational evidence," Working Papers 2020-10, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
    7. Kirchmaier, Isadora & Prüfer, Jens & Trautmann, Stefan T., 2018. "Religion, moral attitudes and economic behavior," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 148(C), pages 282-300.
    8. Yen-Sheng Chiang & Jacqueline Chen Chen, 2019. "Does Inequality Cause a Difference in Altruism Between the Rich and the Poor? Evidence from a Laboratory Experiment," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 144(1), pages 73-95, July.
    9. Karpoff, Jonathan M., 2021. "The future of financial fraud," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 66(C).
    10. Zeballos, Eliana, 2018. "Destructive actions and productivity: Experimental evidence on interpersonal comparisons among dairy farmers in Bolivia," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 82-94.
    11. 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.
    12. Gereke, Johanna & Schaub, Max & Baldassarri, Delia, 2018. "Ethnic diversity, poverty and social trust in Germany: Evidence from a behavioral measure of trust," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 1-15.
    13. Paetzel, Fabian & Traub, Stefan, 2017. "Skewness-adjusted social preferences: Experimental evidence on the relation between inequality, elite behavior, and economic efficiency," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 130-139.
    14. Kirchmaier, Isadora & Prüfer, Jens & Trautmann, Stefan, 2018. "Religion, moral attitudes & economic behavior," Other publications TiSEM 669f51df-0d23-4657-8b16-5, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.

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