Need-Efficiency Trade-Offs in the Allocation of Resources: Ideological and Attributional Differences in Public Aid Decision Making 1

Neil D. Christiansen, Howard G Lavine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

We examined whether ideological differences influenced perceptions of the underlying causes of public aid applicants' predicaments, and whether in turn ideology-patterned attributions accounted for how resource allocators prioritized need- and efficiency-related goals in allocating aid. To examine the need-efficiency trade-off, participants (N = 112) divided a hypothetical pool of aid applicants for subsidized health insurance into two *incorrect* allocation outcomes: false alarms (allocate aid to unneedy applicants) and misses (deny aid to needy applicants). Moreover, to examine beliefs about the absolute percentage of aid applicants who are truly in need of societal assistance, participants divided the remaining aid applicants into two "correct" allocation outcomes: hits (allocate aid to needy applicants) and correct rejections (deny aid to unneedy applicants). Results of a series of structural equation models indicated that conservatism was linked to the causal belief that aid applicants' predicaments arise from dispositional rather than situational factors, which in turn predicted a preference for making efficiency-related over need-related resource allocation judgments (e.g., preferring misses to false alarms) and the belief that a relatively small number of aid applicants are truty in need of societal assistance (e.g., preferring correct rejections to hits). Results are discussed in terms of how ideologically driven attributions influence the manner in which people resolve need-efficiency trade-offs inherent in the context of public aid decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-310
Number of pages22
JournalSocial Justice Research
Volume10
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Causal attributions
  • Conservatism
  • Ideology
  • Liberalism

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