Universitat Rovira i Virgili

New empirical insights on conflicting claims problems

Article  - 

Giménez-Gómez, J.M., Blanco Gil, C. and Sánchez García, J.F. (2022): "New empirical insights on conflicting claims problems", SERIEs

A conflicting claims problem is a distribution problem in which the available amount to be shared, the endowment, is insufficient to cover the agents' acquired rights, their claims. Ilustrative situations are water distribution during periods of drought and resource allocation procedures in the public healthcare sector (see, for instance, Hougaard et al. 2012; Moreno-Ternero and Roemer 2012). The design of efficient radio resource management policies to provide the best quality service while guaranteeing user fairness and environmental safety has also been modelled as a problem with conflicting claims (see Lucas-Estañ et al. 2012; Giménez-Gómez et al. 2016, respectively).

The empirical análisis of these problems are base don two different approaches to studying the acceptance of the main rules proposed in the theoretical literature can be found: (i) questionnaires, and (ii) laboratory experiments. Gaertner and Schokkaert (2012) is a survey about empirical social choice.

The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the analysis of the perception of justice in conflicting claims problems through the study of questionnaires. In our analysis of people's response patterns solving conflicting claims problems as "outsiders", we attempt to achieve two objectives. First, we want to isolate the influence of "pure" background story from both the nature of the claims and the agents' economic positions. Second, we want to find out whether there are any significant differences in people's moral intuition due to their personal characteristics: gender, age, education level and employment status.

Regarding our first purpose, we provide enough information about each specific context to avoid the respondents' personal interpretations of undefined aspects. We have designed eight different economic contexts by combining all of the following pairs of specifications of the general background story, origin of claims and agents' economic position.

Concerning our second purpose, we do not restrict our sample to a particular population such as students, as is common in empirical social choice. Our questionnaires are aimed at a heterogeneous set of participants, pursuing global representation of all the social strata (see, for instance, Schokkaert and Capeau 1991). To our knowledge, this is the first work on conflicting claims problems that illustrates the influence of some personal characteristics on moral intuition, although the role they play in the theory of allocation decisions, as summarised by Hegtvedt and Cook (2001), has been extensively analysed.

Overall the proportional allocation (P) is the fairest allocation for most people. However, there are significant differences in the response patterns related to the following personal characteristics of the respondents: employment status, education level and year of birth. Finally, the data show a tendency to focus on people's sacrifices when rights represent needs.


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José-Manuel Giménez-Gómez