In Research


Year: 2019
Published in: Cross-Cultural Research, 54(2-3), 180-208,
Cited as: Pathak, S., & Muralidharan, E. (2020). Societal Ethics and Social Entrepreneurship: A Cross-Cultural Comparison. Cross-Cultural Research, 54(2–3), 180–208.


Using multilevel modeling and data from 26 countries that include 93,439 individual-level responses on social entrepreneurship for the year 2015, we seek to understand how societal-level ethical orientations impact the likelihood of individuals engaging in social entrepreneurship. We develop a multidimensional representation of societal ethics, in that we draw close parallels between the three institutional pillars—normative, cognitive, and regulatory—with three forms of ethics and use this understanding to predict their effects on the demand for and supply of social entrepreneurs. We find that low behavioral ethics (normative ethics) at the societal level provides opportunities for individuals to become social entrepreneurs. Furthermore, while unselfishness (cognitive ethics) motivates individuals to become social entrepreneurs, high public-sector ethics (regulatory ethics) provides the institutional support for such entrepreneurs to thrive. We contribute to cross-cultural comparative entrepreneurship by providing ethical antecedents of social entrepreneurship through a deeper understanding of the influence of ethics as national-level institutions.


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Future Research

A cross-level design assumes indeed that the different elements (regulatory, normative, and cognitive institutions) are stable, whereas these institutions as reflected by extant research vary with time. For example, increased immigration across countries may modify existing societal-level ethical standards. Such changes in ethical standards, in turn, may take time to influence the actual likelihood of the general population to engage in SE. Future research could therefore:
1) Examine our propositions using longitudinal data spanning multiple years that would facilitate understanding of how soci- etal ethics lead to the evolution of socially responsible behaviors over a period.
2) Examine if and how national cultures shape societal ethical orientations (not just the normative ones, but also the regulatory and cognitive) such that ethical institutions may start to share a very important position in the culture-entrepreneurship fit causal mechanism.
3) Endeavor to identify more ethical institutions and subsequently explore how they shape socially responsible behaviors. future research may examine the comparative influences of societal-level ethics on commercial entrepreneurship and SE.