Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 128, Issue 2, pp 279-289

First online:

Are You Satisfied With Your Pay When You Compare? It Depends on Your Love of Money, Pay Comparison Standards, and Culture

  • Roberto Luna-ArocasAffiliated withDepartment of Management, University of Valencia
  • , Thomas Li-Ping TangAffiliated withDepartment of Management and Marketing, Jennings A. Jones College of Business, Middle Tennessee State University Email author 

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We develop a theoretical model of income and pay comparison satisfaction with two mediators (love of money and pay comparison standards), examine the direct and the indirect paths of our model, and treat culture (the US vs. Spain) as a moderator. Based on 311 professors in the US and Spain, we demonstrate a positive direct path and a negative indirect path. Our subsequent multi-group analysis illustrates: For American professors, their direct path shows that income is directly related to high pay comparison satisfaction. Their indirect path reveals the following new insights: Professors with high income have a strong love of money orientation, set their pay equity comparison standards (deserved pay and other’s salary) significantly higher than their own salary, and as a consequence, have low pay comparison satisfaction. For Spanish professors, love of money is not related to their pay comparison standards which are slightly (non-significantly) higher than their own self-reported income. Neither the direct nor the indirect path is significant. The standardized total effect of income to pay satisfaction is positive for American professors, but negligible for Spanish professors. Are you satisfied with your pay when you compare? Our results demonstrate that pay comparison satisfaction depends on not only one’s income but also one’s love of money and pay equity comparison standards which may vary across cultures.


Professors’ income Money attitude Love of money Pay comparison standards Pay comparison satisfaction Internal and external referent Deserved pay Other’s pay The US Spain Cross-cultural