Social Norms Versus Standards of Accounting

25 Pages Posted: 19 May 2005

See all articles by Shyam Sunder

Shyam Sunder

Yale University - School of Management; Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 2005


Historically, norms of accounting played an important role in corporate financial reporting. Starting with the federal regulation of securities, accounting norms have been progressively replaced by written standards. While social norms are maintained through an informal process of social as well as international sanctions, standards require more formal enforcement mechanisms, often supported by implicit or explicit power of the state to impose punishment. The spate of accounting and auditing failures of the recent years raise questions about the wisdom of this transition from norms to standards. Many aspects of family, local, professional, social, national and international behaviors continue to be governed by mechanisms in which norms play an important role. It is possible that the pendulum of standardization in accounting may have swung too far, and it may be time to allow for a greater role for social norms in the practice of corporate financial reporting.

JEL Classification: M49

Suggested Citation

Sunder, Shyam, Social Norms Versus Standards of Accounting (May 2005). Yale ICF Working Paper No. 05-14; Krakow Conference. Available at SSRN:

Shyam Sunder (Contact Author)

Yale University - School of Management ( email )

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203-432-6160 (Phone)


Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Box 208281
New Haven, CT 06520-8281
United States

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