BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – With the global rise in unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many people may turn to volunteering as a way to spend their newly found free time. But new research suggests that volunteers who also receive state aid are often rated negatively as a “waste of time” that could be used to find paid employment.
“We found that aid recipients are studied more than those who work, including the unemployed, with observers who show a strong prejudice toward the belief that aid recipients should use their time to look for employment opportunities above all else,” said Jenny Olson, marketing assistant professor. at Indiana University Kelley School of Business and corresponding author of research to be published in the International Journal of Research in Marketing. “This is beyond education, personal entertainment and socializing with family and friends.
“As a result, they give them less freedom in the way they use their time, and may even be considered more moral to choose not to engage in prosocial behaviors, when such behavior takes away their time to get paid employment,” Olson added. “The simple act of volunteering among aid recipients – as opposed to not mentioning volunteering – not only shapes the judgments of individual aid recipients, but this information can also influence attitudes toward federal tax policy in a broader sense.”
Although volunteering is a positive activity that partially combats the negative stereotype of welfare recipients, Olson and her colleagues found that it also provokes anger by looking at consumers, and recipients find it “less moral to choose volunteering”. Factors that minimize these judgments include experiencing steps toward employment through education and experiencing incapacity for work.
Other co-authors of “How Income Shapes Moral Judgments of Prosocial Behavior” are Andrea Morales of the University of Arizona, Brent McFerran of Simon Fraser University in Canada, and Darren Dahl of the University of British Columbia. The research was supported in part by support from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Council.
According to a 2019 report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, public spending on state aid in 2018 averaged more than 20 percent in 36 countries. Many countries – including those in Asia, Europe and America – have seen an increase in the number of people receiving benefits over the years, totals billions.
The extent to which the welfare state is supported depends to a small extent on the feelings of the public. Previous research has shown that support for government spending on social welfare programs is directly related to the way the public receives beneficiaries with the right to vote. This is the first article to document the link between prosocial behavior and support for federal spending on welfare programs.
“Given that individuals perceive opportunity costs in their own time, it is understandable that they perceive them for the sake of others as well,” Olson said. “Because government programs are supported by ‘their’ taxpayer dollars, observers often feel justified in suggesting that recipients spend their time.”
Research shows that consumers prefer different tax redistribution patterns as a function of observing aid recipients who make non-financial decisions. In particular, consumers support spending less tax dollars to support government aid programs after hearing about a recipient of aid who volunteers.
The researchers conducted nine studies in three countries. Coincidentally, participants were presented with scenarios about hypothetical recipients of assistance and asked to make a judgment about how the recipients used their time, such as participating in volunteer activities or submitting resumes. Participants were asked how they view targeted individuals with a morality index and how they feel about them.
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