Configuration of Sub-Projects in the Research Group Need-Based Justice and Distribution Procedures


Please note that the descriptions below are from the second funding phase. Descriptions of all sub-projects from the first funding phase can be found here. 

To directly access the individual sub-projects, please click on the link in the table below. 


Block A: Identification

Sub-project A1  (Prof. Diederich/ Prof. Nicklisch/ Prof. Siebel): Description-invariance is a main property of rational choice theories. Numerous empirical studies, however, have shown that preferences may strongly depend on how a decision problem is framed, whether irrelevant aspects are added, and/or the response mode being used (e.g. choice vs. matching). Those effects are called framing effects resulting in preference reversals and preference shifts. Framing effects have been studied in many (applied) areas but less in the context of justice and need. The current research project (A1, part of FOR2104) investigates the transparency hypothesis that holds that transparency of a decision process contributes to social objectivity of distribution decisions. The project aims to identify the determinants that play a role when making those decisions. Internal and external framings are investigated. Internal framing of a person depends on her/his personal characteristics (experiences, norms, habits). The heterogeneity among the decision makers may influence their judgments on need. External framing refers to the decision maker’s perception and conception of a decision situation influenced by the phrasing (frame) of the decision problem. Three experimental series are proposed. The first series includes decision making under certainty with two different problem frames and three response frames (choice, default, matching). In addition to need, two person characteristics are added to the choice situation: age (ascribed) and health related behavior (acquired). The second series includes decision making under risk. In addition to need, identifiability of the needy person is considered. Lotteries are framed as gains and losses. Two participants, one active and one passive, are involved. The active person must retain a certain need level and the passive person must reach a certain need level and is dependent on the active person’s choice behavior. The passive person may or may not be described in terms of concrete person characteristics. The third series includes decision making under certainty and focuses on the identifiability of persons and on how their roles are determined. Two response modes are included (choice, default) and two problem frames (gain, loss). The heterogeneity of the participants (decision makers) is measured in all three experimental series by utilizing personality tests, in particular those that relate to justice (sensitivity). Heterogeneity of the stimuli (persons described in the decision problems) is obtained by using different ascribed and acquired person characteristics.

Sub-project A2  (Prof. Siebel/ Prof. Traub): In the second funding period, we address differentiation in applying the needs principle. Sub-project A2 "Measures of Need-based Justice, Expertise and Coherence" focusses on three influencing factors: (a) self-responsibility of the receiver for her supply situation, (b) civil embedding of the receiver and (c) the significance which satisfying the given need has for a decent life. On the theoretical side, these factors will be mathematically modeled in order to integrate them in measures of need-based justice. On the experimental side, it will be examined how much different values of these factors strengthen or weaken acceptance of a need-based distribution. In continuation of the first funding period, the influence on the coherence and reference-point dependence of justice evaluations, as well as the role of expertise, will be included. For example, it will be examined whether judgements of persons who frequently deal with need-based supply and persons who know undersupply from personal experience are more strongly guided by needs, more coherent and show a smaller reference-point dependence.

Block B: Acceptance

Sub-project B1  (Prof. Kittel/ Dr. Pritzlaff-Scheele/ Prof. Schnapp): Network structures affect the ability to articulate one’s need claims and the power to enforce one’s preferences. Integrating ideas from the theory of social exchange networks, the sociology of justice, and behavioral economics, subproject B1 "Distributive Preferences and Need-based Justice in Networks" studies variations in the recognition of needs in dyadic negotiations that permit allocations to network members outside the dyad. Using two three-node networks – the triangle and the three-line – as examples of equal- and unequal-power networks, we showed in the 1st funding period that distributions negotiated in dyads do actually include outsiders and that the willingness to do so depends on the subjects’ social value orientations and the power structure of the network. We have also shown that subjects do take into account heterogeneous need levels. In the 2nd funding period, we further elaborate dimensions of network transparency, that is, the amount of information available about a node, in order to study scope restrictions in need recognition. In the first step, we explore the effect of transparency in the network on the scope of need satisfaction by introducing heterogeneity in two ways: First, we study the recognition of needs if individuals contribute to a joint production task before they bilaterally negotiate the distribution of the output. Second, we use arbitrary criteria to form group identities before subjects are allocated to networks in which they bilaterally negotiate distributions. In the next step, we study the effect of varying the size and density of the network on the recognition of needs. A third experiment increases the conflict level by substituting resource scarcity for abundance, which implies that at least one need claim cannot be satisfied. In a last step, we explore the congruence of attitudes and behavior and study the generalizability of the laboratory findings by comparing them to survey data.

Sub-project B2  (Prof. Tepe/ Prof. Diederich) studies the effect of the collective need-recognition procedure on the legitimacy of redistributive decisions and how this procedure is mediated by the use of expertise. The first project phase shows that the collective need-recognition procedure is subject to systematic distortions (equivalence framing, leaky-bucket effect, deservingness, entitlement, voting rule). However, empirical results from the first phase also show that groups are certainly capable of applying the principle of need-based justice and are even more likely to do so with the help of expertise. The social outreach and differentiation of the principle of need-based justice is at the center of the second project phase. To this end, B2 studies the conditions under which the social categorization of voters and experts leads to a more inclusive or exclusive application of the principle of need-based justice. B2 develops a novel game-theoretical framework to observe and manipulate the collective need-recognition procedure that translates individual need into collectively accepted need and redistributes accordingly. Predictions derived from the rational solution of this game serve as analytical reference points for the study of subjects’ behavior in the experimental tests. In a series of laboratory experiments, B2 gradually introduces the social categorization of voters and experts in order to test how social group membership affects the collective need-recognition procedure and the legitimacy of the redistributive decision.

Block C: Dynamic

Sub-project C1  (Prof. Nullmeier/ Dr. Pritzlaff-Scheele/ Mercator-Fellow: Prof. Schramme): Political distribution decisions do not stop at national borders. Therefore, in recent years, scientific research on questions of justice has increasingly addressed questions of global justice, political ethics of migration, and fair development policy. Against this backdrop, we distinguish between three different scenarios: The national arena of distribution changes due to a higher level of immigration (1. immigration scenario), development policy transfers to countries with lower and middle-range incomes increase (2. transfer scenario), or the mode of production in a high-income country changes in a way that improves the conditions of the international division of labor in support of other countries (3. structural change scenario). Based on a combination of experimental research and theory building, subproject C1 analyses how stable the determination of needs and a need-based distribution are within these three scenarios. Using experiments that adapt the basic design from the first funding period, we study what consequences the reception of additional individuals into the distribution community, transfer payments to a third party, or a change in production mode in support of others (global redistribution) may have on the stability of distribution choices. We expect that the expansion of the social range leads to increased efforts to differentiate between needs, in the sense that these efforts will continue to grow starting from the immigration scenario, to the transfer scenario, through to the structural change scenario. In the theoretical part of the subproject, we examine whether the differentiation of need might be legitimized and stabilized through a distinction between the necessary (need) and the adequate (sufficiency). Taking up theories of sufficientarianism, we study the possible normative stabilization of need differentiation in transnational contexts.

Sub-project C2  (Prof. Schnapp/ Prof. Tepe): Democratic welfare states redistribute resources based on laws and administrative decrees. Public officials and employees of NGOs implement these regulations on the local level. Project C2 “Conceptions of Need-based Justice in Administrative Behavior” puts forward the following questions: Which public service norms and which conceptions of need-based justice guide the implementation of the respective regulations by public officials and actors in NGOs? What are the effects of those norms on the individual decision-making on the local level? We treat the relevant individuals as experts for decisions on need-based redistribution. During the first working phase of this research group, project B2 demonstrated that using the advice of experts leads to better decisions about the redistribution of resources. With “better”, in this context we mean that more people are levied to an income above subsistence-level income with expert-guided decisions than with non-expert decisions. The above-mentioned need experts are relevant for this project in the sense described earlier. We research their value systems using focus groups with public officials and NGO employees. In addition, we carry out survey-experiments with students of programs in Public Administration and with students from programs not directly related to this profession field (like Law, Business Administration or Sociology). We focus on a) the attitude of all subjects towards heterogeneity in decisions on need-based redistribution and b) the role of the public service norm of impartiality on their handling of heterogeneity.

Block D: Sustainability

Sub-project D1  (Prof. Nicklisch/ Prof. Nullmeier): Redistribution is one of the core functions of the majority of modern states. Yet, redistribution does not come without costs for a society: redistribution distorts incentives to work, and advances incentives to spend time on leisure activities. Economists denote resulting reductions in productivity as the implicit costs of redistribution. Subproject D1 "Justice, Incentives, and Heterogeneous Needs" analyzes theoretically and experimentally the implicit costs of redistribution based on need-based justice. For this purpose, we develop experimental designs allowing us to measure the effect of income taxation and transfers on productivity. The results from our first funding period show little evidence for implicit costs of redistribution, but higher productivity when transfer recipients are not personally responsible for their need. When we vary the meaningfulness of taxation such that tax revenues finance transfers to less needy recipients or if they are wasted altogether, the productivity surplus decreases. The second funding period examines the effect of differentiations of transfers for needs with heterogeneous origins (i.e. they are heterogeneously caused by either personal responsibility or exogenously imposed restrictions). We examine resulting implicit costs of redistribution for different transparency levels of personal responsibility. We compare the cost effect of differentiation with the effect of policy instruments supporting the indirect reciprocal ties between transfer payer and transfer recipients. Finally, we develop a general framework for the interplay between indirect reciprocity, differentiation of needs, limited transparency of personal responsibility and implicit costs of need-based redistribution.

Sub-project D2  (Prof. Traub/ Prof. Kittel): The distribution of lifetime incomes exhibits an enormous degree of stochasticity. The redistributing welfare state can be characterized as a special type of insurance device that reduces the variance of lifetime incomes. Subproject D2 "Need-based Redistribution as a Social Contract" analyses theoretically as well as by means of laboratory experiments the economic incentive effects caused by the welfare state in the context of productive investment decisions made by involved but impartial observers. The 1. funding period showed that need-based redistribution is sustainable in terms of reducing inequality and increasing investment. Based on this result, in the 2. funding period, D2 will investigate different conceptions of need-based justice, which arise from ex-ante heterogeneity with respect to risk preferences and group identity. How does the impartial observer’s investment behavior change in the presence of heterogeneity? How does differentiation of need-based redistribution influence the acceptance of the distribution outcome by the group members? Will the impartial observer discriminate against group members with different characteristics?