A key claim in the administrative burden framework is that citizens do not experience interactions with public programs as equally burdensome. Existing research has argued that citizens’ generic human capital may influence the severity of these experiences. In this article, we argue that a specific form of human capital specific to interactions with public programs – administrative literacy – affects the psychological costs recipients are facing. Specifically, we propose that administrative literacy is positively associated with autonomy maintenance in the face of burdensome rules, and that autonomy maintenance is negatively associated with stress. In doing so, we investigate a theoretically founded differentiation of psychological costs. We test these propositions using structural equation modeling on a unique survey of 915 unemployment insurance recipients in Denmark. The findings support our arguments, suggesting that accumulation or training of program specific human capital may help recipients to cope with the strains of unemployment.