Administrative Justice in Public Welfare Bureaucracies: When Citizens (Don’t) Complain


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

One of the few avenues open to citizens to dispute mistakes in the administration of public welfare programs is administrative hearings (“fair hearings”). However, recipients rarely use them. This has important implications for social equity, as government is obligated to ensure its process for distributing benefits is fair and equitable. Drawing on data from 28 qualitative interviews with recipients who were sanctioned for violating the work rules, this study explores why recipients appealed, or did not appeal, their work sanctions. The findings indicate that nearly all of the recipients believed they were wrongfully sanctioned and were aware of their right to appeal. For recipients who did not appeal, the fair hearing system was indistinguishable from the rest of the agency, which they viewed as inflexible and intractable. In contrast, those who appealed viewed fair hearings more favorably, and unlike the nonappealers, had been encouraged to appeal by social networks.

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