TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Income Inequality Promotes Cheating

Lukas Neville (Queen’s University), Do Economic Equality and Generalized Trust Inhibit Academic Dishonesty? Evidence From State-Level Search-Engine Queries:

What effect does economic inequality have on academic integrity? Using data from search-engine queries made between 2003 and 2011 on Google and state-level measures of income inequality and generalized trust, I found that academically dishonest searches (queries seeking term-paper mills and help with cheating) were more likely to come from states with higher income inequality and lower levels of generalized trust. These relations persisted even when controlling for contextual variables, such as average income and the number of colleges per capita. The relation between income inequality and academic dishonesty was fully mediated by generalized trust. When there is higher economic inequality, people are less likely to view one another as trustworthy. This lower generalized trust, in turn, is associated with a greater prevalence of academic dishonesty. These results might explain previous findings on the effectiveness of honor codes.

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