Accepting inequality deters responsibility: How power distance decreases charitable behavior

Karen Page Winterich, Yinlong Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Citations (SciVal)


Could power distance, which is the extent that inequality is expected and accepted, explain why some countries and consumers are more likely to engage in prosocial behavior, including donations of both money and time? This research proposes that higher power distance results in weaker perceptions of responsibility to aid others, which decreases charitable behavior. Both correlational and causal evidence is provided in a series of five studies that examine country-level power distance as well as individual and temporarily salient power distance belief. Consistent with the mediating role of perceived responsibility, results reveal that uncontrollable needs and communal relationship norms are boundary conditions that overcome the negative effect of power distance on charitable behavior. These results explain differences in charitable giving across cultures and provide implications for nonprofit organizations soliciting donations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-293
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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