Study shows more youths lie, cheat and steal to get ahead

Sonny Lufrano

If you thought recent corporate scandals were bad, you ain't seen nothing yet.

That is the message from a new report from the Josephson Institute of Ethics, a nonpartisan, nonprofit membership organization based in Marina del Rey.

Prepare now to assure you consider and hire only those who meet the highest standards of integrity, work habits, and honesty. Use the Step One Survey II to prevent future losses and problems.
Contact TABIC at 206-284-4387, or by email at

The report, released last fall, paints a rather unflattering picture of this generation of high school students. It said today's teen-agers are lying, cheating and stealing in increasing numbers.

In a survey of 12,000 high school students across America, 74 percent admitted they cheated on an exam at least once in the past year and 38 percent says they had stolen something from a store in the past 12 months.

"The evidence is that a willingness to cheat has become the norm and that parents, teachers, coaches and even religious educators have not been able to stem the tide," says Michael Josephson, president of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.

"The scary thing is that so many kids are entering the work force to become corporate executives, politicians, airplane mechanics and nuclear inspectors with the dispositions and skills of cheaters and thieves."

What does all of this mean for companies across the country? More cheating. More workers are lying today than in the past, says Chuck Jones, director of external affairs at ChoicePoint Inc., an Alpharetta, Ga., company that provides identification and credential verification services to help companies determine whether a potential employee is who they claim to be.

In 2001, more than 220,000 job applicants' records (out of 3.2 million background checks) contained some type of serious criminal conviction, Mr. Jones says. Crimes included more than 500 murder convictions, more than 8,000 assaults and in excess of 17,000 drug offenses.

"That's on top of the countless fabrications about education and work history," he says. "A recent national study indicates that 34 percent of résumés and 73 percent of job applications contain falsified or embellished information."

The number of students looking at someone else's paper jumped from 61 percent in 1992 to 74 percent in 2002. Stealing increased from 35 percent in 2000 to 38 percent in 2002, and those who say they would be willing to lie to get a good job leaped from 28 percent to 39 percent over the same two-year period, the study says.

The survey also reported that gender does not play a significant role when it comes to lying and cheating. Forget the sentiment about how sports is valuable because it teaches young people the importance of teamwork and ethical conduct. According to the survey, varsity athletes were more likely to cheat on exams than other students. Parochial students steal less than their public school counterparts, but more religious school attendees lie and cheat.

The same students who admitted to cheating and lying say their behavior was not the result of poor parenting or poor educational systems. Approximately three-quarters of the students say their school tries hard to help students develop good character.

A full 84 percent agreed with the statement: "My parents want me to do the ethically right thing, no matter what the cost." Cheating is on the rise at the university level as well, says Chris Wellman, an associate professor of philosophy at Georgia State University and the director of the Jean Beer Blumfeld Center for Ethics. "By the time students get to college, they have developed the mentality that it's OK to cheat," Mr. Wellman says. "In the old days, you would call in a parent and the parent would be very upset. These days, the parents are advocates for the children. No one is willing to take responsibility."

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