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Business ethics, accounting ethical dilemmas, ethnicity, minority, non-minority
The United States has long been referred to as a melting pot. People from all cultures bring to our business world their values and beliefs. For the past two decades, accounting organizations have reached out and supported the education of minorities. Academic research in the area of ethical decision making has attempted to highlight factors that contribute to differences in ethical decision making. Culture, and possibly, religion have been the key variables examined as a basis for differences in an individual’s ethical decisions. As more and more minorities enter the profession of accounting in the United States, an important question that should be answered is “Will American minorities approach ethical situations similarly to that of their non-minority American peer group?”, or will their cultural backgrounds influence their ethical norms? This paper presents a research study that opens this conversation. As minorities are entering the accounting profession, it is reasonable to expect that Americans from different cultural backgrounds may react differently to ethical dilemmas. However, research on ethical beliefs of minority business and accounting students is rare. The authors developed a survey to determine if there were differences in ethical values based on ethnicity. It was tested using materials provided by KPMG. The survey used a case involving a student lying on his resume. It asked for answers to seven ethical situations and seven activities. The survey was administered in two different major- level accounting classes at a large public university. The results of the study show that minority and non-minority students generally agree on ethical issues and their likely action when a classmate lies on a resume in the process of getting a job. However, there were some interesting differences in the magnitude and direction of the responses by minority and non-minority students. Our findings also suggest that Minority students are more sensitive to ethical transgressions by their peers and feel more negatively impacted if someone lies in the process of getting a job. Accountants are often in a position where they must report violations. Our study suggests students from all backgrounds should engage in discussions about lying and suggest ways to deal with reporting such unethical behavior to authorities.
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