Utrecht University and the City of Utrecht have teamed up for the experiment ‘Weten wat werkt’, a study into the effects of less conditional social assistance (bijstand). Under the current system, the Dutch Participation Act (Participatiewet) prescribes strict duties and entitlement conditions for people who receive social assistance. Whether obligations work best to reintegrate people and encourage them to participate in society remains to be seen.
During the experiment groups of social assistance claimants in Utrecht will receive benefit payments under varied conditions for a period of two years. Some of the participants will be exempted from reintegration obligations. Others will be offered extra help and support or additional financial incentives. Outcomes of interest are re-integration into the labour market and societal participation, as well as participants’ well-being, satisfaction and financial situation. Also the cost of the different schemes will be assessed. The research will be conducted by a group of researchers from Utrecht University School of Economics (U.S.E.), prof. dr. Stephanie Rosenkranz, dr. Loek Groot, dr. Mark Sanders and Timo Verlaat (MSc). The experiment is planned to start in May 2017.
Based on behavioural insights
The theoretical foundations of the experiment root in evidence from the field of behavioural economics, which argues that individuals are not just driven by financial motives, as standard economic theory assumes, but also by strong non-financial motives. Relevant mechanisms in this regard might be concerns for fairness and reciprocity, crowding-out of intrinsic motivation by extrinsic motivation, and the effects of poverty and financial scarcity on individuals’ cognitive capacity.
What does the experiment look like?
The experiment consists of one control and four treatment groups. After two years, the results of all these groups will be compared. Group 5 will start later, for the formal approval of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment is required.