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Faculty & Research


Organizational Wrongdoing as the “Foundational” Grand Challenge: Definitions and Antecedents

Book Chapter
Corporate crime is prevalent and imposes enormous costs on society, yet our understanding of its antecedents remains poor, especially in relation to executive characteristics. In this study, the authors examine the influence of CEO childhood social class on corporate crime. Using a unique data set of CEOs at the largest US corporations, the authors consider CEO childhood background and develop the argument individuals raised in middle-class families have a greater disposition to commit wrongdoing within the corporations they lead. Specifically, growing up middle-class leaves a lasting status-anxiety imprint, which increases the tendency to engage in corporate crime to preserve or enhance social status. Furthermore, the authors show two status-anxiety-minimizing factors – Ivy League education and membership in a prominent golf club – weaken the effect of middle-class upbringing on corporate crime. The authors' findings suggest childhood social class has significant explanatory power for executive behavior and corporate outcomes.

Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise