Have ethical attitudes changed? An intertemporal comparison of the ethical perceptions of college students in 1985 and 2001

Journal of Business Ethics 50 (2):167-176 (2004)
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Recent ethical breeches by corporate governorsat the highest levels have called into questionwhether ethical attitudes have changed sincethe Corporate Raider scandals of the mid-1980s. We exploit a unique opportunity to follow-up ona previous investigation of college students inthe mid-1980s to analyze this question. Usinga similar survey instrument, we find thatstudents surveyed in 2001 are significantlyless accepting of the ethically questionablesituations in seven of 15 scenarios and moreaccepting in only one. Seven scenarios showedno significant change. We conclude that,overall, ethical attitudes of students in 2001appear to have become higher over time. To theextent that current students are futurebusiness leaders, we find these results to beencouraging for the long term.



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