Money, Emotions, and Ethics Across Individuals and Countries

Long Wang, J. Keith Murnighan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-176
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 31 2014


  • Corruption
  • Culture
  • Emotions
  • Ethics
  • Income
  • Subjective well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Law


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