Daria Tisch, Tamara Gutfleisch
Unequal but just? Experimental evidence on (gendered) distributive justice principles in parental financial gifts

Socio-Economic Review, 2023: 21, issue 3, pp. 1369–1390
ISSN: 1475-1461 (print), 1475-147X (online)

Research has documented gender inequalities in parental financial gifts, but it is unclear under which conditions these inequalities are socially accepted. We combine distributive justice theory with sociological and economic perspectives on intergenerational transfers to examine perceptions of fair allocations of parental gifts. By manipulating children’s characteristics in a multifactorial vignette experiment, we conducted in Germany in 2020 (N ¼ 4284 observations of 714 respondents), we test the prevalence and gendered application of four justice principles (equality, need, entitlement and equity). While the equality principle was widespread, unequal gifts were legitimized both by children’s financial needs (unemployment) and exchange services (helping in parents’ household). These results indicate that the family is perceived as an agency for economic redistribution, potentially affecting society’s socio-economic structure. Moreover, exchange services weighed more for sons while needs weighed more for daughters, suggesting that gendered fairness perceptions are one possible mechanism explaining gender inequalities in financial gifts.