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Raising the Question on ‘Who Should Get What?’ Again: On the Importance of Ideal and Existential Standards

Shamon and Dülmer (2014)


This contribution compares the importance of ideal standards and existential standards on people’s ideas on fair earnings. Ideal standards refer to persons’ preferences for a distribution rule according to which earnings ought to be allocated among members of a social aggregate. Existential standards refer to conditions of the social context, like the average earning or pay inequality, that serves as points of reference when people shape their ideas on just earnings. In line with the theoretical literature, we find that both standards are relevant for shaping people’s ideas on just earnings. However, there seems to be greater consensus among our respondents on the importance attached to the existential standards than over that attached to the ideal standards. We also found a “reversed just gender wage gap”: by assigning higher earnings to fictitious female than fictitious male employees, our female and male respondents seem to compensate former gender-related income discrimination against female employees in the German labor market. Our analysis is based on the answers of 676 respondents living in Germany who participated in an internet-based factorial survey.