An overview of empirical research on ethics in entrepreneurial firms within the United States

Melissa S. Baucus, Philip L. Cochran


Scholars recognise that entrepreneurs may encounter different ethical issues and pressures than managers in larger corporations. This has fostered empirical research aimed at assessing ethics in entrepreneurial settings in the United States. Our emphasis on empirical research with little attention paid to purely conceptual papers allows us to highlight the narrow definition of entrepreneurship used in the US and how US researchers distinguish between entrepreneurship and other types of small businesses. This differs greatly from many other countries, especially those in which researchers equate entrepreneurship with the study of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Researchers in the US often distinguish ethics from corporate social responsibility (CSR), corporate social performance (CSP), stakeholder theory and stakeholder management with different theoretical models proposed in each of these areas. After discussing these various definitional issues, we review the empirical research on ethics in entrepreneurial firms, discussing what the results tell us, identifying gaps in prior research and concluding with recommendations for future research that draws more heavily on theoretical frameworks in the field of ethics. 


ethics; entrepreneurship; ethical attitudes; ethical issues

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