The abundance effect: Unethical behavior in the presence of wealth

"Our results show that feelings of envy towards wealthy others lead to unethical behavior. Our findings offer insights into when and why people engage in unethical behavior."

The abundance effect: Unethical behavior in the presence of wealth

Francesca Gino
Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Lamar Pierce
Washington University, Saint Louis - John M. Olin School of Business

Date Written: August 20, 2008

Abstract
Three laboratory studies investigate the hypothesis that the presence of wealth may influence people's propensity to engage in unethical behavior. In the experiments, participants are given the opportunity to cheat by overstating their performance or by stealing money. In each study, one group is stimulated by the visible proximity of wealth. We find that the presence of abundant wealth leads to more frequent cheating than an environment of scarcity. Our third experiment also investigates the potential mechanisms behind this effect. Our results show that feelings of envy towards wealthy others lead to unethical behavior. Our findings offer insights into when and why people engage in unethical behavior.

Keywords: unethical behavior, envy, money, wealth, stealing

Thoughts on hiring and wide scale dishonesty:

Trade agreements like GATS that require we import workers should be disposed of immediately, using the GATS Article XXI Procedure, no-matter what the cost.