Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 125, Issue 1, pp 163–176 | Cite as

Money, Emotions, and Ethics Across Individuals and Countries

  • Long Wang
  • J. Keith MurnighanEmail author


This article presents two separate but closely related studies. We used a first sample to investigate the relationships among individuals’ reports of their income and their subjective well-being, and their approval of unethical behavior in 27 countries and a second sample to investigate the relationship between corruption in 55 countries and their populace’s aggregated feelings of subjective well-being (happiness). Analysis of data from 27,762 working professionals showed that, although reported feelings of subjective well-being were negatively related to their approval of unethical behaviors, income was positively related to their approval of unethical behaviors. In addition, the effects for feelings of subjective well-being were particularly strong for high-income people. Analyses also showed that, after controlling for economic development and other country-level factors, corruption was negatively related to a country’s feelings of happiness. These findings suggest that feelings of subjective well-being may lead to more ethical, less corrupt behavior and that the tolerance of unethical, corrupt behavior may lead to less collective happiness and subjective well-being.


Ethics Emotions Income Subjective well-being Culture Corruption 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ManagementCity University of Hong KongKowloonHong Kong
  2. 2.Kellogg School of ManagementNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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