Studies in social sciences suggest that a normative commitment to stable, biological married life is a potent catalyst for inculcating and nourishing prosocial values, preferences and behaviors among family members. Extrapolating from this literature, we investigate whether firms led by married chief executive officers (CEOs) are associated with better corporate social responsibility (CSR). Our analysis of 2163 U.S. public corporations from 1993 to 2008 shows that firms led by married CEOs are associated with significantly higher scores on a popular CSR index, after controlling for a wide range of firm characteristics and CEO attributes. Further, the observed positive relation is particularly sharper with the diversity and employee relations components of CSR. Our findings highlight CEO marital status as an important driver of socially responsible corporate decision making.
There is a large body of literature on the virtues and drawbacks of marriage. Although the overall effect of marriage on the economic and physical health of the family is debatable, the social benefits of the union appear to be significant. Also, prior research has shown that personal attributes, values and experiences of top managers, such as gender, political affiliation, religion, having children, and education, affect corporate policy. Marital status of CEOs is one such personal attribute that may be correlated with both socially responsible activities of corporations as well as several other personal traits. The main objective of this study is to explore how the marital status of CEOs affects corporate social responsibility (CSR). Corporate social responsibility is broadly defined as a firm's commitment to minimizing potential harmful effects of its operations on its stakeholders (owners, employees, customers, community and the society at large) and maximizing its long-run beneficial impact on society. There is considerable debate regarding the economic and social desirability of CSR, i.e., whether it is value creating or destroying (Berman et al., 1999; Hillman and Keim, 2001; Chatterji et al., 2009; Boehe and Cruz, 2010; Dhaliwal et al., 2011; El Ghoul et al., 2011; Barrios et al., 2014; Cheng et al., 2014; Jiraporn et al., 2014; Bereskin et al., 2016; Smith and Smith, 2016). Another body of literature indicates that top managers' values, personal attributes, and experiences (including their marital status) affect a wide range of corporate policies (e.g., Bertrand and Schoar, 2003; Dahl et al., 2012; Roussanov and Savor, 2014). Managers' personal values, attributes, attitudes and behaviors can influence employees' response to the work environment and firm activities (Ambrose et al., 2013). CEOs' religious affiliations (Catholic or Protestant) affect corporate decisions with respect to leverage, geographic diversification, and firm value (Baxamusa and Jalal, 2016).