Research project overview and subprojects

The project focuses on how state actions may cause experiences of burden and, as a consequence, reduce civic, and electoral participation, take-up of welfare benefits, and medical contacts. We will examine a series of mechanisms hypothesized to link and potentially reinforce the impact of state actions on burdens. Furthermore, based on a behavioral perspective, we hypothesize that state actions is partly shaped by the tolerance for imposing burdens on target groups among politicians, public officials, and the public at large, and that tolerance for imposing burdens in turn depends on how target groups are socially constructed.

Overview of the research project

Subproject 1: Cognitive capacity and the learning, compliance, and psychological costs of state acitons

In subproject 1, we argue that differences in cognitive capacity is central to understanding why experiences of burden differ among groups who are presented with the very same state actions in terms of content.

We provide a comprehensive theoretical argument for how and why cognitive capacity matters to learning, compliance, and psychological costs of state actions and furthermore discuss how objective characteristics of many target groups are likely to matter to their cognitive capacity.

Subproject 2: Resource scarcity and experiences of burden

Resource scarcity has been shown to impact poor people’s behavior in various ways. When facing severe scarcity, people’s ability to solve problems is causally reduced as is their behavioral control.

In  subproject 2, we build on this literature  to hypothesize that a permanent state of lacking financial resources will reinforce the impact of state actions on experienced burdens.

Using a series of empirical designs including natural, lab, and survey experiments, we examine if people with scarce financial resources are less able to cope with complex and seemingly redundant rules and requirements in citizen-state interaction as we expect.

Subproject 3: Self-efficacy and experiences of burden

The social cognitive theory of human agency points to the importance of self-efficacy (defined as people’s evaluation of their own “capacity for success and agency in a specific task or domain” (Condon & Holleque 2013) to human choices.

The project expects that administrative self-efficacy will increase the ability of benefit recipients to cope with state actions. Furthermore, when facing particularly complex state actions, individuals are more likely to be taught that they are not able to deal with the problems at hand.

Consequently, the project proposes an impact of rules on administrative burden which is partly mediated by administrative self-efficacy. The propositions will be studied in a combination of survey experimental and observational studies.

Subproject 4: Deservingness and experiences of burden

Building on the concept of identity-driven stigma, subproject 4 assumes that benefit recipients will internalize existing negative beliefs and stereotypes that others hold towards them as a group.

Thus, the project expects that benefit recipients will feel stigmatized in response to perceptions of low deservingness in the public at large and that the impact of public deservingness perceptions will be further reinforced  when thy experience a high degree of red tape in welfare benefit programs.

This is because rules are associated with interpretive effects on citizens in the sense that through rules they acquire perceptions of their role in society and their status and deservingness in relation to other citizens and government (Mettler 2002).

Hence, red tape increases the signal that recipients are not deserving. Furthermore, the subproject expects harmful effects of complexity and redundancy of state actins on deservingness perceptions and thus that the impact of red tape on administrative burden is partly mediated by deservingness perceptions.

Empirically, the hypotheses will be studied using a combination of lab and survey experiments and analyses of public register data.

Subproject 5: State actions and election participation

Research on policy feedback suggests that policy designs are consequential for civic and electoral participation.

This hypothesis is typically studied by comparing participation rates among beneficiaries of different welfare programs. However, this causes some concern about to what extent beneficiaries of different programs are actually comparable and whether we can obtain a causal estimate using such a design.

In subproject 5, we put the hypothesis of policy feedback to a hard test We exploit that Danish rules regarding welfare benefits often are different for eligible citizens depending on, for instance, how long they have been unemployed, the number of years they have resided in Denmark etc. to conduct register based analyses using regression discontinuity designs.   

Subproject 6: Taxing language?

In this subproject, we discuss lingual deficiencies as a condition that may make citizen-state interactions particularly burdensome in many instances.

We study how lingual deficiencies among, for instance, immigrants and illiterate people are likely to reduce take-up of benefits for which they are eligible.

Moreover, we explore networks as a resource that reduces negative impacts of lingual deficiencies.

Subproject 7: Administrative burdens in non-clientilistic settings

Research on administrative burdens and related literatures primarily focus on how vulnerable citizens experience burdens when they engage in highly clientilistic interactions with the state.

Subproject 7 extends these arguments to less clientilistic settings and explore under what conditions citizens are likely to experience burdens in, for instance, cases of co-production. 

Subproject 8: Tolerance of burdensome state actions

Why are burdensome state actions sometimes imposed on target groups even in cases where the burdensome aspects do not increase welfare program goal achievement?

Subproject 8 focuses on how  characteristics of target groups such as deservingness, ethnic composition (in-group/out-group), and whether burdens are publicly known impact the tolerance of burdensome state actions among elected politicians, public officials, and citizens at large.