This study examines the impact of national culture on ethical decision making. We theorize and test a mediation model where country of origin influences perceptions of justice and power distance, which in turn influence behavioral intentions in regard to ethical dilemmas.
Our sample includes accounting students from four countries: China, Japan, Mexico, and the U.S. We find that country of origin, justice perceptions, power distance perception, and gender are all related to ethical decision making. We investigate these relationships with two different ethical scenarios, and find that these relationships differ between the two contexts. Additionally, power distance and justice partially mediate the relationship between country of origin and ethical decision making. We find that gender is significantly related to ethical decision making in one of the two scenarios, and explore gender differences in all of the measured constructs across countries.
Finally, we contrast the various measures of justice, power distance, and agreement with behavioral intentions in the two ethical scenarios between countries. We find that the two eastern countries (China and Japan) and the two western countries (U.S. and Mexico) demonstrate expected East-West patterns in power distance. However, this East-versus-West pattern is not supported when considering between-country differences in justice, agreement with the layoff decision, and agreement with whistleblowing.