JEM justice empirique

How should scarce resources be distributed among people with different needs, beliefs, moralities and effort levels (equally / efficiently / fairly)? Should social justice be determined by how society is organized and governed (‘fair rules’, i.e. procedural justice) or by the appreciation of people’s situation (‘good outcomes’, i.e. consequentialist justice)?

JEM (Justice Sociale Empirique) is a multidisciplinary project (Economics, Geography and Law) that focuses on the links between social identity (residential and social position, values, and trajectory) and social justice preferences. In line with Sen’s claim that people adapt their preferences to circumstances, we want to understand better if spatially and socially different persons do have different visions 1) of their own well-being and social position and 2) of social justice principles. More precisely, we will focus on three ‘hot topics’ in justice theories, Law & Economics and spatial justice: 1) the consequentialist vs. procedural conceptions of justice, 2) responsibility and morality as mitigating factors for the support of egalitarian (vs. utilitarian or Rawlsian) justice principles and 3) the valorisation of opportunity and agency freedoms as well-being components.

Using a survey methodology recently developed in Empirical Social Choice, we will create a series of short and simple vignettes that depict social justice dilemmas. By asking respondents their preferred solution to each dilemma, we will elicit their ‘normative framework’ and unearth their support to alternative ‘abstract’ social justice principles. To provide as a comprehensive picture as possible, we plan to survey a representative sample of the population as well as carefully selected ‘polar’ social groups (students, residents of segregated areas, successful professionals in competitive sectors such as Law, Economics and Sports, inmates…) and will use different survey techniques targeted to each surveyed group: face-to-face questionnaire administration, postal surveys and data collection through social media. We will then use structural equation modelling (SEM) to understand the links between our respondents’ identities and their social justice opinions.

The JEM project is innovative because it broadens the topics traditionally debated in Empirical Social Choice: the multi-disciplinarity of our team means that we want to focus on Law & Economics (are judges really utilitarian consequentialists?) and spatial (do living in a segregated area affect one’s point of view on social justice?) issues. It is also focuses on groups rarely surveyed in the Empirical Social Choice Literature besides Economics students: French respondents, students in Law and Sports, inmates, residents of segregated areas.

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