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Social Justice Research

Correction to: Deliberating Inequality: A Blueprint for Studying the Social Formation of Beliefs about Economic Inequality

“Poison to the Economy”: (Un-)Taxing the Wealthy in the German Federal Parliament from 1996 to 2016

Abstract

The concentration of wealth is a key component of the rise in economic inequality at the beginning of the twenty-first century. While the abolition of taxes on private wealth during the 1990s and 2000s is recognized as an important institutional driver behind this development, comparatively little is known about the justification of tax cuts for the wealthy in advanced democracies. This paper investigates how the abolishment of the personal net wealth tax in Germany, a country with high levels of wealth inequality, has been debated and justified in parliament over a period of 20 years. Using a mixed methods approach that combines computational social science methods and a qualitative analysis, we examine how Germany’s two major parties, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD), have variously construed the meaning and purpose of the wealth tax and justified their support for or opposition to it. While the Social Democrats debate the wealth tax primarily from a social justice perspective, the Christian Democrats rely on an efficiency frame that invokes biological metaphors, enabling them to narrate the wealth tax as a threat to the social body. Paradoxically, then, by arguing that the tax is “poison to the economy”, conservative discourse succeeds in linking opposition to the wealth tax to a principle of social unity. On these grounds, we suggest that future research should scrutinize how the interrelation between political discourse and institutional architectures has facilitated the rise of wealth inequality in recent decades.

Deliberating Inequality: A Blueprint for Studying the Social Formation of Beliefs about Economic Inequality

Abstract

In most contemporary societies, people underestimate the extent of economic inequality, resulting in lower support for taxation and redistribution than might be expressed by better informed citizens. We still know little, however, about how understandings of inequality arise, and therefore about where perceptions and misperceptions of it might come from. This methodological article takes one step toward filling this gap by developing a research design—a blueprint—to study how people’s understandings of wealth and income inequality develop through social interaction. Our approach combines insights from recent scholarship highlighting the socially situated character of inequality beliefs with those of survey experimental work testing how information about inequality changes people’s understandings of it. Specifically, we propose to use deliberative focus groups to approximate the interactional contexts in which individuals process information and form beliefs in social life. Leveraging an experimental methodology, our design then varies the social makeup of deliberative groups, as well as the information about inequality we share with participants, to explore how different types of social environments and information shape people’s understandings of economic inequality. This should let us test, in particular, whether the low socioeconomic diversity of people’s discussion and interaction networks relates to their tendency to underestimate inequality, and whether beliefs about opportunity explain people’s lack of appetite for redistributive policies. In this exploratory article we motivate our methodological apparatus and describe its key features, before reflecting on the findings from a proof-of-concept study conducted in London in the fall of 2019.

Legitimate Wealth? How Wealthy Business Owners are Portrayed in the Press

Abstract

Germany has one of the highest levels of wealth concentration of any Western capitalist country. Research on the legitimization of economic inequality highlights that wealth elites tend to stress meritocratic arguments for legitimizing elite positions and wealth accumulation. However, whether this is also the case for wealthy business owners and how the media tends to portray those remains largely unknown. Drawing on a unique sample of 899 press articles from eight different media outlets between 2014 and 2018, we find a rather generous media debate. Based on descriptive evidence and a latent class analysis, we identify six latent frames illustrating how wealthy business owners are portrayed in the press. We show that the sources of wealth (inheritance, investment, entrepreneurship) are often used to highlight these owners’ deep economic relevance to the German economy, while the use of wealth is predominantly framed as a mean for profit-seeking. For wealthy business owners, moral evaluation of personal conduct is less present in the media and, when it is present, is rarely negative. Our study is the first analysis of press coverage of the wealthiest German business owners indicating a legitimizing media debate of high wealth concentration in an advanced capitalist society.

“Caught in the Middle! Wealth Inequality and Conflict over Redistribution”

Abstract

A vast literature documents that wealth inequality has risen throughout advanced democracies, especially the accumulation of wealth among the rich. Yet, instead of increasing wealth redistribution, governments have done the seemingly opposite. Key to understanding why democratic governments do not increase wealth redistribution in times of rising inequalities is to shed light on the public’s preferences. In this paper, we map the public’s redistributive preferences in fourteen countries based on new survey data. We show that traditional socioeconomic cleavages in preferences for wealth redistribution are undermined by diverging mobility expectations. People who expect to climb up the wealth distribution, mostly lower wealth groups, are less supportive of redistribution than people with high stakes of major wealth losses, mainly upper wealth groups. We show that future expectations among the rich and the poor have a highly moderating role for the class conflict over wealth redistribution. Moreover, the middle class, the decisive group in democracies, is highly unresponsive to future prospects. The findings suggest that the middle class does not have much to lose or to win, and therefore, wealth redistribution is of low salience among this group.

The Merit of Ascription? Economic Elite Perceptions of Inheritance Taxation

Abstract

Inheritance represents a conflict between the individual and society. On one hand, the intergenerational transmission of resources favors the reproduction of privilege. On the other hand, contemporary individualization processes prioritize individual achievement. This paper addresses this conflict through a sociological approach by analyzing perceptions of inheritance taxation based on 32 in-depth interviews with members of the economic elite in Chile. Findings show that the principle of individual freedom in decisions regarding resource use prevails over the redistributive function that controls inheritance and favors personal attainment. In addition, a negative view of inheritance prevails, which is sustained by three major repertoires of evaluation emphasizing its inefficiency, ineffectiveness, economic inconvenience, and lack of foundation, as its purpose or utility is unknown. This last argument is surprising because it does not reject this tax for its design or application; rather, it confronts some crucial ideas with which it is usually linked, namely opportunity levelling at the beginning of a new generation and redistribution of privilege.

Introduction: Wealth, Inequality and Redistribution in Capitalist Societies

Abstract

This special issue addresses the question of why high levels of wealth inequality in many countries are not met with greater public discontent and demand for redistribution. The introduction contextualizes this focus by providing an overview on the social science literature explaining the patterns and drivers of wealth inequality in capitalist societies in the post-war era. The contributions enhance the understanding of why wealth inequality remains largely unchallenged by the public in the following ways: (a) through shedding light on the perceptions of different groups and asking how they perceive wealth inequality and the wealthy; (b) by asking why the non-wealthy seldom oppose wealth inequality; and (c) by reconstructing how political and economic elites conceive of wealth-related policies, such as wealth taxes. Future avenues for research, especially regarding the legitimation of wealth and the elaboration of a relational perspective, are outlined.

Ethical CSR, Organizational Identification, and Job Satisfaction: Mediated Moderated Role of Interactional Justice

Abstract

The interconnected relationships between a business and its various stakeholders have been the beneficiaries of widespread research over the past few decades. Consequently, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and organizational justice have gained much prominence within management and organizational research. Yet, there remains less visibility into how they may interact to influence employee attitudes. Combining insights from social exchange and social identity theories, we develop and validate a mediated moderation model: organizational identification’s mediation accounts for the interactive effect of ethical CSR (i.e., perceptions of whether firms act according to the generally accepted norms, standards, and principles of society) and interactional justice (i.e., perceptions of equity in the relationship between employees and those with authority over them) on employee job satisfaction. Using structural equation modeling on a sample of 293 employees, we find support for our proposed relationships. This research contributes to the existing knowledge at the intersection of CSR and organizational justice literature and reveals useful takeaways germane to accruing ethical capital with employees.

Is the World a Just Place? The Italian Adaptation of the Personal and General Belief in a Just World Scales

Abstract

The study presents the Italian adaptation of the Personal and General Belief in a Just World (P-BJW and G-BJW) Scales. Dalbert and colleagues developed these scales to capture the belief in a just world for oneself and a just world in general. After the translation and back-translation, the P-BJW and G-BJW scales were administered first to a pilot sample of 213 university students and then to a national sample of 2683 Italian people. Results showed that it was necessary to make some revisions to the predicted two correlated factor structure. These changes entailed correlating the error terms for some manifest variables and removing the first item of the P-BJW factor. The final structure of the P-BJW and G-BJW scales presented satisfactory indexes of model fit as well as high reliability and moderate validity values. Additionally, this structure proved to fit the data better than an alternative one-factor or a bi-factor model with two orthogonal-specific factors. As predicted, well-being strongly predicted scores on the BJW, but age and gender did not. Multigroup comparisons among Northern, Central, and Southern Italy respondents indicated that Italian people interpret scale items equivalently, regardless of their geographical location. Introducing the P-BJW and G-BJW scales to the Italian justice scholarship is very useful to unpack the reasons why Italy reports lower levels of social justice than other European countries and also to investigate the link between justice, well-being, and other socio-psychological variables.

Personal Versus General Belief in a Just World, Karma, and Well-Being: Evidence from Thailand and the UK

Abstract

The belief in a just world (BJW) is the belief that people get what they deserve and deserve what they get. The theory and research findings suggest that believing the world is fair to “me” (personal BJW or PBJW) is associated with positive psychological functioning, whereas believing that the world is fair to people in general (general BJW or GBJW) may not. Against a backdrop of mixed findings in samples recruited in Asian countries, we conducted two studies in Thailand (N = 177 and N = 175) and one in the UK (N = 345). Study 1 examined the relationships between PBJW, GBJW, life satisfaction, and depression in Thailand; Study 2 also included Karma and was conducted in Thailand and the UK. In both studies, PBJW uniquely predicted well-being. When controlling for BJW, belief in Karma positively predicted life satisfaction and depression only in the UK sample. In addition, Karma was uniquely predicted by GBJW but more strongly so in Thailand. Furthermore, within both samples, individuals endorsed PBJW more strongly than GBJW; comparing across samples, PBJW was more strongly endorsed in the UK than Thailand, whereas GBJW was more strongly endorsed in Thailand than the UK. However, sample nationality did not moderate associations between BJW, Karma and well-being. Results support the cultural generality of just world theory and the psychological priority of PBJW and indicate that the cultural concept of Karma does not explain relationships between just-world beliefs and well-being.

Promoting Gender Equality: A Systematic Review of Interventions

Abstract

More than four decades have passed since the United Nation’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted. Now is an opportune time to consider whether the interventions seeking to realise CEDAW’s aspirations have brought us closer to achieving gender equality. This systematic review aimed to identify and synthesise evidence for the effectiveness of social justice, cognitive, or behaviour-change interventions that sought to reduce gender inequality, gender bias, or discrimination against women or girls. Interventions could be implemented in any context, with any mode of delivery and duration, if they measured gender equity or discrimination outcomes, and were published in English in peer-reviewed journals. Papers on violence against women and sexuality were not eligible. Seventy-eight papers reporting qualitative (n = 36), quantitative (n = 23), and multi-methods (n = 19) research projects met the eligibility criteria after screening 7,832 citations identified from psycINFO, ProQuest, Scopus searches, reference lists and expert recommendations. Findings were synthesised narratively. Improved gender inclusion was the most frequently reported change (n = 39), particularly for education and media interventions. Fifty percent of interventions measuring social change in gender equality did not achieve beneficial effects. Most gender mainstreaming interventions had only partial beneficial effects on outcomes, calling into question their efficacy in practice. Twenty-eight interventions used education and awareness-raising strategies, which also predominantly had only partial beneficial effects. Overall research quality was low to moderate, and the key findings created doubt that interventions to date have achieved meaningful change. Interventions may not have achieved macrolevel change because they did not explicitly address meso and micro change. We conclude with a summary of the evidence for key determinants of the promotion of gender equality, including a call to address men’s emotional responses (micro) in the process of achieving gender equality (micro/meso/macrolevels).

Judicial and Litigant Perceptions in Dutch Court Cases: Perceptions of Outcome Importance Overlap, Perceptions of Procedural Justice Diverge

Abstract

The current paper aims to provide insight into judges’ perceptions of how fairly they treat litigants and how important case outcomes are to litigants, and whether these perceptions relate to litigants' perceptions of procedural justice and outcome importance. Respondents were litigants involved in bankruptcy, landlord-tenant, and administrative law cases and judges handling these cases at the district court of the Mid-Netherlands. Both litigants and judges indicated outcome importance and procedural justice. Litigants also indicated their trust in judges. Multilevel analyses using hierarchical regression showed a positive association between judicial and litigant perceptions of outcome importance and no significant association between judges' and litigants’ perceptions of procedural justice. This indicates that whereas judges and litigants largely agreed on how important case outcomes were, their views about how fairly judges handled cases diverged. These insights enhance our understanding of linkages and discrepancies between judges' and litigants' views on important aspects of the legal system.

Comparing Teachers’ and Students’ Perspectives on the Treatment of Student Misbehavior

Abstract

The treatment of student misbehavior is both a major challenge for teachers and a potential source of students’ perceptions of injustice in school. By implication, it is vital to understand teachers’ treatment of student misbehavior vis-à-vis students’ perceptions. One key dimension of punishment behavior reflects the underlying motives and goals of the punishment. In the present research, we investigated the perspectives of both teachers and students concerning the purposes of punishment. Specifically, we were interested in the extent to which teachers and students show preferences for either retribution (i.e., evening out the harm caused), special prevention (i.e., preventing recidivism of the offender), or general prevention (i.e., preventing imitation of others) as punishment goals. Therefore, teachers (N = 260) and school students around the age of 10 (N = 238) were provided with a scenario depicting a specific student misbehavior. Participants were asked to indicate their endorsement of the three goals as well as to evaluate different punishment practices that were perceived (in pretests) to primarily achieve one specific goal but not the other two. Results show that teachers largely prefer general prevention, whereas students rather prefer special prevention and retribution. This discrepancy was particularly large in participants’ evaluation of specific punishment practices, whereas differences between teachers’ and students’ direct endorsement of punishment goals were relatively small. Overall, the present research may contribute to the development of classroom intervention strategies that reduce conflicts in student–teacher-interactions.

Distinctly Neoliberal: A Latent Profile Analysis of Neoliberal Ideology and Its Associations with Sociopolitical Actions and Sexual Attitudes

Abstract

Scholars warn that neoliberalism erodes investment in the well-being of others by prizing the self-interested individual. To empirically investigate this claim, we surveyed 307 white, cisgender, heterosexual adult women across the US. First, we conducted a latent profile analysis using 6 indicators and identified 3 distinct sociopolitical profiles. In addition to typical Traditional and Progressive belief profiles, we observed one reflecting neoliberal ideology. Politically, women in the Neoliberal group held a centrist political orientation and relatively high neoliberal beliefs. Regarding social equality, they exhibited middling support for LGBTQ people and comparatively low gender equality beliefs. On interpersonal attitudes, they reported the lowest empathy as well as perspective-taking. Second, we examined the profiles’ associations with dedication to the welfare of others. Neoliberal-grouped women endorsed taking relatively low sociopolitical actions and were the least likely to donate money to marginalized women, while the most likely to keep it all for themselves. Although they held liberal attitudes toward their own sexual behavior, they imposed the highest sexual double standards on others and most strongly endorsed the use of others for one’s own sexual pleasure. Our findings reflect concerns that neoliberal ideology marks a departure from consideration of—and commitment to—others in both sociopolitical and personal domains. We discuss implications for social justice and welfare.

The Art of Being Ethical and Responsible: Print Media Debate on Final Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel in Finland and Sweden

Abstract

After decades of preparation, the final disposal of spent nuclear fuel has reached the construction stage in Finland, and the neighboring Sweden is likely to soon follow in the footsteps. These Nordic countries rely on a similar technical concept based on passive safety, advocated as a means of minimizing the burden to future generations. The scholarly literature on the ethics of nuclear waste management has thus far paid little attention to the views of the broader publics on the associated ethical challenges. This article helps to fill the gap through a longitudinal and comparative analysis of ethical discussion of the final disposal of SNF in news articles and letters to the editor in four leading Finnish and Swedish daily newspapers in 2008–2015. The study period included major milestones in the licensing processes of the respective two repository projects. The article examines the attention paid to intra- and intergenerational distributive and procedural justice, the changes in the ethical agenda over time, and the societal actor groups that receive attention in the media. The analysis reveals two distinct ethical media agendas: (1) the news article agenda that is dominated by framings of the main players (industry, politicians, authorities, and experts) and largely excludes future generations from the scope of justice, and (2) the agenda represented by the letters to the editor, which focuses on intergenerational justice concerns. Particularly, in the Finnish letters to the editor the value of the lives of distant future generations was discounted implicitly.

Mitigating Intergroup Conflict: Effectiveness of Qualifying Subjective Justice Views as an Intervention Technique in Comparison to Empathy Induction

Abstract

Intergroup conflicts can be triggered and perpetuated by collective perceptions of injustice. In two experiments, we applied the qualifying of subjective justice views, a justice-focused intervention initially introduced to resolve interpersonal conflicts, and evaluated whether it can mitigate intergroup conflicts. This intervention included explicating opposing justice perceptions, explaining the dilemma structure of justice conflicts, and emphasizing that each conflict party applies different justice standards in different situations. In a realistic conflict setting, among advantaged group members, the intervention enhanced the willingness to pay monetary concessions to the out-group. This effect was mediated through an enhanced understanding of the justice dilemma (Study 2) and legitimacy judgments of the out-group’s justice claim (Studies 1 and 2). Furthermore, effects of the justice-focused intervention were compared to those of empathy induction as a benchmark to evaluate the effectiveness. The comparison provided additional evidence for the effectiveness of the justice-focused intervention to mitigate intergroup conflicts.

A Multidimensional Approach to Intergenerational Balance Measurement: A Cross-Sectional Study for European Countries

Abstract

The demographic shift experienced by developed countries inevitably results in a change in intergenerational relations. However, despite some attempts to evaluate intergenerational balance in quantitative terms, there is still a significant literature gap in this respect. This paper aims to propose a conceptual and empirical framework to measure intergenerational balance in a cross-country perspective which can serve for the comparative assessment of the outcomes of various policies. It addresses the research question in which countries selected generations are privileged over others in socio-economic terms. Our empirical study includes the investigation of the (relative) situation of different generations as well as comparisons of gender differences in terms of studied welfare state performance across generations to examine whether gender equality in some generations is more promoted than in others. As a criterion, we employ multivariate statistical analysis methods to group 25 European countries into clusters using the intergenerational balance in terms of poverty, income, housing, labour market, education and health. We distinguish four patterns in this respect: ‘Supporting young’, ‘Supporting adult’, ‘Discriminating against elderly’ and ‘Supporting elderly’. Our findings reveal that shifting the perspective from inputs to outcomes and including gender perspective gives a somewhat different picture of Europe in terms of intergenerational balance.

The Role of Just World Beliefs in Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Abstract

This study investigated whether people’s personal belief in a just world (BJW) is linked to their willingness to physically distance themselves from others during the COVID-19 pandemic. Past research found personal BJW to be positively related to prosocial behavior, justice striving, and lower risk perceptions. If social distancing reflects a concern for others, high personal BJW should predict increased interest in social distancing. If social distancing reflects a concern for one’s personal risk, high personal BJW should predict decreased interest in social distancing. Results of a pre-registered internet-based study from Germany (N = 361) indicated that the higher people’s personal BJW, the more they generally practiced social distancing. This association still occurred when controlling for empathy, another significant predictor of social distancing. There were no mediation effects of empathy and risk perception. The findings extend knowledge on the correlates of social distancing in the COVID-19 pandemic which could be used to increase compliance among citizens.

The Effects of Gender Faultlines and Distribution of Rewards on Intragroup Power Struggles and Group Performance

Abstract

Despite the relevance and importance of distribution of rewards for group performance, especially groups with active faultlines, existing literature exploring these relationships is scarce. This study investigates the combined effects of gender faultlines and three particular conditions used for distribution of rewards on intragroup power struggles and group performance. The study hypothesizes that the relationship between gender faultlines and group performance is mediated by intragroup power struggles. It further posits that the distribution of rewards moderates the relationships between gender faultlines and intragroup power struggles, as well as gender faultlines and performance. The hypothesized relationships received empirical support in this experimental study using data from 396 participants nested in 99 groups. Specifically, we found that the positive effect of gender faultlines on intragroup power struggles was significant under inequity and equity conditions, but non-significant under equality condition. Further, the negative relationship between gender faultlines and performance was strengthened in the presence of inequity and equity conditions. Inequity condition resulted in the highest level of power struggles and lowest level of perceived and objective performances. Equity condition led to medium levels of power struggles and perceived performance but the highest level of objective performance. With equality condition, what ensued was the lowest level of power struggles, highest level of perceived performance, and medium level of objective performance. Managerial implications along with areas for future research are discussed.

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