ESRA logo

ESRA 2023 Glance Program

All time references are in CEST

Perceptions of Inequality and Justice 1

Session Organisers Ms Jule Adriaans (Bielefeld University)
Dr Sandra Bohmann (Socio-Economic Panel Study at DIW Berlin)
Professor Stefan Liebig (Socio-Economic Panel Study at DIW Berlin)
Mr Matteo Targa (Socio-Economic Panel Study at DIW Berlin)
TimeTuesday 18 July, 11:00 - 12:30
Room U6-20

Reducing inequalities in life chances and outcomes is identified as one of the key societal challenges of today and the economic turmoil experienced as a consequence of the pandemic as well as the ongoing war in Ukraine have exacerbated questions of social inequality and social justice across Europe.

One important contribution that the social sciences have made and continue to make in this debate, is highlighting the importance of subjective evaluations in understanding the persistence of inequalities as well as the proposed far-reaching consequences for well-being and social cohesion. Research continues to show that individuals misperceive inequality, evaluate inequalities in terms of justice, and hold normative beliefs that legitimize inequalities – all of which help to understand why inequalities persist, why inequalities do not necessarily translate into adverse consequences, and how individuals will react to policies aiming to address inequalities.

National and international surveys offer rich data for studying the determinants and consequences of such subjective perspectives on inequality. For example, Round 9 of the European Social Survey (2018/2019) featured a module on “Justice and Fairness in Europe”, the International Social Survey Programme fielded the fifth iteration of its “Social Inequality” module in 2019, and the German Socio-Economic Panel Study included a questionnaire module on social inequality in 2021. All of which extend beyond a narrow scope of income and wealth inequality but also cover issues of social mobility, preferences for distributive principles, life chances, and political procedural justice, allowing for a comprehensive account of perceptions of inequality and justice.

We are inviting contributions that address methodological questions with respect to survey measures and survey-embedded experiments that capture attitudes towards inequality as well as substantive applications of survey research that shed light on the determinants and consequences of subjective perspectives on inequality and justice.

Keywords: Social inequality; Justice; Perceptions; Survey research


Reflections of subjective inequality and political actions: The role of the target outgroup

Dr Tomislav Pavlović (Institute of Social Sciences Ivo Pilar) - Presenting Author
Professor Renata Franc (Institute of Social Sciences Ivo Pilar)
Dr Ingrid Storm (Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society)

Many contemporary researchers agree that inequality between groups is a driver of political actions against outgroups. However, both inequality and political actions are complex phenomena, making it important to further study this relationship in the context of other relevant variables. One such variable could be the specific outgroup. Earlier research has shown that frequency and quality of contact may determine how individuals will treat a specific group and how far they would be willing to go to achieve their political goals. The purpose of our study was to evaluate differences in the contribution of subjective inequality to the prediction of activist and radicalised intentions against two outgroups – Muslims and senior citizens. The multi-group structural equation modelling was applied separately on nationally representative samples of youth from Germany (N = 1056), Norway (N = 376), and the UK (N = 1053). Subjective inequality exhibited a robust and independent contribution to the prediction of activist intentions after controlling for general aggression, social desirability bias, age, and gender. In contrast, its contribution to radicalised intentions depended on the specific model and country. Taking the target outgroup into account revealed that group relative deprivation contributed significantly to the prediction of radicalised intentions only against Muslims and not against senior citizens. The meaning and implications of these results are briefly discussed.

Disentangling people’s fairness of earnings evaluations using distributional survey experiments

Dr Sandra Gilgen (University of Zurich) - Presenting Author
Dr Christoph Zangger (University of Bern)

We investigate how people distribute salaries according to their sense of justice in a hospital setting using a distributional survey experiment (DSE) included in a representative survey in Switzerland. In contrast to traditional approaches, DSEs combine the efficient experimental designs of factorial survey experiments with an active allocation task as is common in laboratory experiments (Gilgen 2022). A DSE is made up of vignettes that are obtained through algorithmic searches for orthogonal and efficient designs. The vignettes are then grouped into choice sets (Kuhfeld 2010). Respondents are then asked to distribute money among the people described in a particular set of vignettes. Using a DSE allows us to take the interdependence of earnings allocations among the people included in a choice set into account and to directly quantify respondents’ tastes for (in)equality in monetary terms by looking at the resulting inequality within choice sets.
Using data from roughly 2000 respondents of respondents from a supplement module of the ISSP in 2019 in Switzerland, we find that people consider both merit and need in their allocation decisions, as well as the occupational position of the vignette person. Moreover, women are paid about 230 Swiss Francs less than men, while people with an Arabic or a Slavic name receive about 280 Swiss Francs less. Finally, heterogeneous allocation decisions affect the amount of income inequality: People in higher self-reported class positions, with a higher personal income and those with a migration background from Western Europe tend to distribute more unequally. Consequently, our contribution extends the literature on distributive justice by simultaneously testing different mediating mechanisms and especially by introducing distributional survey experiments as an innovative and adequate method to causally study allocation decisions and preferences.

Window-dressing or Justice? Survey Experiments on Citizen Perceptions of Police Misconduct

Dr Sophia Hatz (Uppsala University) - Presenting Author
Dr Kristine Eck (Uppsala University)

Widespread debates about police misconduct, particularly the inappropriate use of force, have prompted some governments to introduce various policy responses to hold police officers accountable. One of the ways states address this problem is with police misconduct oversight institutions, which facilitate civilian reporting and governmental investigation of misconduct. Case studies have highlighted that there is considerable variation in the ways states design these institutions. However, little is known about how citizens perceive oversight institutions, and the conditions that determine civilian engagement via reporting. In this paper, we present the pre-analysis plan for a survey experiment which varies different facets of institutional design and capacity in order to understand to what extent citizens perceive police oversight bodies to be procedurally just and fair, and under what conditions citizens are willing to report police misconduct. In particular, the survey includes a series of vignettes which vary five experimental treatments: the independence, accessibility, transparency, sanctioning powers of the bodies, and whether citizens who file complaints are subject to retribution through the imposition of legal or economic costs. We will conduct the survey experiments online with nationally-representative samples of citizens in three countries: Denmark, Sweden, and Spain. Public opinion on misconduct and police accountability is important since it can impact on broader policy discussions and the incentive structure of governments to constrain the police.

Perceptions and preferences about income taxes: A factorial survey approach

Mr Julio Iturra (University of Bremen) - Presenting Author
Professor Juan Carlos Castillo (Universidad de Chile)
Professor Luis Maldonado (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)

Concerns about increasing economic inequality have boosted the research on public perceptions and preferences related to salaries, social welfare, meritocracy, subjective status, and taxes. Traditional survey questions addressing this last topic generally rely on single-item Likert scales that ask to what extent respondents agree with the amount of taxes that are/should be paid by, for example, themselves, the poor, or the rich. Nevertheless, what respondents take into account when making judgments about just taxes remains largely unclear. The present study aims to shed light on how perceptions and preferences about taxes are related to specific characteristics of the presented (stimulus) case. Based on a two-wave factorial survey design in Chile in 2019 (N=1,470) we evaluated the role of characteristics such as gender, age, childcare, education, income, and family background on the perception and evaluation of a just income tax. The models were estimated in a multilevel framework, in which vignettes are nested within respondents in order to assess the influence of the vignette’s attributes on perceived and preferred income tax. Preliminary results show that respondents tend to be well-informed and accurate about Chile's income tax levels. The vignette's household income is the most relevant attribute in explaining the perceived and preferred income tax, showing a robust positive effect. On the other hand, neither the respondent's educational level nor household income influences perceived and preferred income tax. The study was pre-registered in the Open Science Framework:

Who should get and who should give? A survey experiment on public preferences for both sides of redistribution

Mr Jan Gniza (University Erlangen-Nürnberg) - Presenting Author
Mr Tilman Wörz (University Erlangen-Nürnberg)
Dr Licia Bobzien (Hertie School Berlin)

Although the large body of research on who should benefit from redistribution only few studies analyse public attitudes towards the question who should pay for it. Using a factorial survey experiment, we analyse whether the German and American public use deservingness criteria (need, control, reciprocity, attitude, identity) not only to judge beneficiaries but also to judge net contributors. Our sophisticated approach is to use two subsamples where we give respondents the same vignettes but two different contexts. In subsample 1, we ask respondents who should be considered for a reform that reduces taxes and in subsample 2 for a reform that increases taxes (in total n=2000). The varying characteristics of the fictitious persons in both subsamples are income, family background, past unemployment, children, commitment with others, citizenship. With our design, we can compare the impact of each of these characteristics in both subsamples.
First results show that preferences for redistribution are not symmetric. Therefore, if the public prefers that a specific group should benefit from tax reduction, it does not necessarily mean that the opposite group should pay more taxes. E.g., respondents use past employment to judge if the person should pay less taxes but do not use this information to judge who should pay more taxes. Our approach made it possible to reveal how the context of reducing or increasing taxes influences the impact of each deservingness cue. We want to present the challenges and possibilities when using such sophisticated vignette designs with several subsamples that give different contexts. We see great potential for this approach for example if the research question focuses on how different framing or sources of information change the perception of identical situations.