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Fair treatment in a divided society : a bottom up assessment of bureaucratic encounters in Latvia

Galbreath, David and Rose, Richard (2008) Fair treatment in a divided society : a bottom up assessment of bureaucratic encounters in Latvia. Governance, 21 (1). pp. 53-73. ISSN 1468-0491

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Abstract

In real-world bureaucratic encounters the Weberian goal of perfect impersonal administration is not completely attained and unfairness sometimes results. Theories of bias attribute unfairness to social characteristics such as income, education, ethnicity, and gender. A random theory characterizes unfairness as the result of idiosyncratic conditions that give everyone an equal probability of being treated unfairly regardless of their social characteristics. In Latvia, bias would be expected on grounds of ethnicity as well as social characteristics, since its population is divided politically by citizenship, language, and ethnicity as well as socioeconomic characteristics. Survey data from the New Baltic Barometer shows that a majority of both Latvians and Russians expect fair treatment in bureaucratic encounters and multivariate statistical analysis confirms the random hypothesis. Insofar as unfair treatment occurs it tends to be distributed according to idiosyncratic circumstances rather than being the systematic fate of members of a particular social group. The evidence indicates that the professional norms and training of service deliverers are more important in bureaucratic encounters than individual attributes of claimants, even in a clearly divided society.