Ethics, income and religion

Journal of Business Ethics 61 (3):199 - 214 (2005)
This paper investigates the relationship between ethics and income among individuals of different religions in the HKSAR of China. The presence of both traditional Chinese religion and Christianity from the West makes our study particularly interesting. The content of ethical beliefs varies with religion and thus the effect of ethics on income may also vary across religion. Furthermore, a reverse causal relationship may run from income to ethics. Since culture and taste affect the consumption behavior of a person, depending on the religion of the person, a person with a higher income may or may not like to ‘acquire’ more ethics. Our empirical results find that there is indeed a simultaneous relationship between income and being ethical so that a single equation estimation of income on ethics and vice versa generates biased estimates. Using a two-stage instrumental variable estimation, our study finds that being ethical contributes to higher income for Christians and the non-religious group, but lowers it for people of traditional Chinese religion. On the other hand, an increase in income increases the likelihood of a person’s being ethical for both Christians and the people of traditional Chinese religion, but reduces it for the non-religious group.
Keywords ethics  income  religion  christianity  traditional Chinese culture
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