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PhD position: Behavioral law and economics project on crowding out sustainability motives

We are looking for an enthusiastic researcher with a Master's degree in economics and/or law. Primary requirements are affinity with empirical research into the effects of the form of legal norms on intrinsic motivation of sustainability compliance. Th...

4 maanden geleden


De Boelelaan, Amsterdam, Noord-Holland
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
32 - 32 uur
€ 2434 - € 3111 per maand


The projected PhD research focuses on firms' behavior and the phenomenon of crowding out in the context of the legal design of sustainability policies. Crowding out is a behavioral mechanism that leads well-intentioned firms to lose their intrinsic motivation to display desirable behavior, in this case the pursuit of sustainability goals. The crowding out mechanism can cause legal norms, deterrence, and regulatory supervision to have the opposite effect of that which is desired: interventions and incentives can lead to less instead of more compliance. This has a bearing on effective policy design.

The main research questions are:

  • As to the legal subjects concerned: Are different groups of firms susceptible to the crowding out effect to different degrees, and what characteristics of these firms determine this susceptibility?
  • On the legal instruments applied: Is the way in which the legal norms and incentives that are applied to the firms concerned are framed (in shorthand: closed rules or open standards) relevant, and does this differ between groups?
  • Regarding the resultant policy design: If different groups of firms are susceptible to different legal incentives, is an effective policy mix taking account of crowding out possible, and what could this look like in a concrete example?
These questions will be addressed from a behavioural law and economics perspective. The focus of the research will not be on economic incentives per se. Rather it will look at the effect of legal norms and sanctions, and how they can be structured in order to achieve compliant behavior. This will be done whilst taking account of motivational and prosperity heterogeneity. Price functions as a signal, raising the question as to what may be the signalling functions of legal instruments such as rules, standards, and different types of civil and criminal sanctions or rewards. Where explicit pricing mechanisms are introduced, intrinsic motivation may be crowded out. At the same time, legal sanctions can act as economic (dis-)incentives. The methodology is that of experimental empirical research (lab experiments and vignette studies), supplemented by qualitative inputs (such as interviews). The intended factual context is that of the policies and initiatives regarding climate change and sustainability.

Your duties
  • Carrying out scientific research under supervision for a period of four years, culminating in a PhD degree in law and/or economics (according to your preference)
  • Independent data collection, under supervision
  • Analysing quantitative and (to a lesser extent) qualitative data
  • Writing scientific publications towards a PhD thesis
  • Presenting research findings for a scientific as well as a general audience
  • Teaching (to a maximum of 10% of your hours).


  • A completed relevant Master's degree in the economics and/or law
  • A verifiable interest in research, and affinity with the topic and methods of the PhD project
  • Good academic English language skills (speaking and writing) are needed, (passive) knowledge of Dutch is a plus
  • Verifiable skills in quantitative data-analysis and statistical software (such as SPSS; R)
  • Experience with research and prior own publications are a plus.


A challenging position at a socially involved organisation. The salary starts at €2,395 (PhD-scale) in the first year and increases to €3,061 (PhD-scale) gross per month in the fourth year for a full-time appointment.

The job contract is offered initially for one year and prolonged to in total four years based on an assessment of performance and perspectives. The job contract ends after four years with the defence of the PhD thesis. Depending on the prior training of the successful PhD candidate, the PhD degree will be awarded either by the Faculty of Law and/or by the School of Business and Economics.
  • Function area: PhD
  • Level of training: University - MA/MSc/LLM
  • VU-employment unit: Faculty of Law (RCH)
  • Contract type: Temporary
  • Minimum FTE: 0,8
  • Minimum salary scale: €2,395 (PhD)
  • Maximum salary scale: €3,061 (PhD)
The VU also has an attractive package of secondary job conditions and arrangements that enable a positive combination of work and private life such as:
  • 8% vacation pay and 8,3% end-of-year allowance
  • A contribution to travel costs between your place of residence and place of work
  • Elective fiscal facilities related to your employment conditions.

Additional information

Are you interested in this position? Please use the button below in the ATS system to upload your curriculum vitae and motivational letter including the contact details of at least one proposed referee. It is not possible to apply via e-mail.

The deadline for applications is January 31, 2022.

Acquisition activities based on this job advertisement will not be recognised.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Prof. Wolf Sauter
Position: Professor of law markets and behavior
E-mail: w.sauter@vu.nl
Telephone: 205983250

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