A new study by a University of Arkansas management professor shows how origins of social class explain risk-taking behavior -- good or bad -- by the top executive at the largest U.S. public corporations.
In a survey of 265 chief executive officers, Jennifer Kish-Gephart, assistant professor of management in the Sam M. Walton College of Business, and co-author Joanna Campbell at the University of Cincinnati found that CEOs with lower and upper social-class origins take greater strategic risks than those who grew up in middle-class families. Within the two high-risk categories, CEOs with upper social-class origins engage in higher levels of strategic risk-taking than their lower social-class counterparts.
"Our work suggests that social-class origins exert a lasting influence on executive decision-making," said Kish-Gephart. "In short, childhood social class matters. Even though inequality has lately come to the fore as a public issue, two widely held American beliefs persist -- first, that the U.S. is largely a classless society and, second, that people shed or discard the vestiges of their social class roots when they achieve upward mobility. Countering these beliefs is, I think, an important contribution of our study."
The study also found that college choice also influenced risk-taking for the CEOs surveyed.
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