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Public Sector Employees: Risk Averse and Altruistic?

  • Buurman, Margaretha


    (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

  • Dur, Robert


    (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

  • van den Bossche, Seth


    (TNO Work and Employment)

We assess whether public sector employees have a stronger inclination to serve others and are more risk averse than employees in the private sector. A unique feature of our study is that we use revealed rather than stated preferences data. Respondents of a large-scale survey were offered a substantial reward and could choose between a widely redeemable gift certificate, a lottery ticket, or making a donation to a charity. Our analysis shows that public sector employees are significantly less likely to choose the risky option (lottery) and, at the start of their career, significantly more likely to choose the pro-social option (charity). However, when tenure increases, this difference in pro-social inclinations disappears and, later on, even reverses. Our results further suggest that quite a few public sector employees do not contribute to charity because they feel that they already contribute enough to society at work for too little pay.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4401.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4401
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  15. Simon Burgess & Marisa Ratto, 2003. "The Role of Incentives in the Public Sector: Issues and Evidence," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 03/071, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  16. Camerer, Colin F. & Hogarth, Robin M., 1999. "The Effects of Financial Incentives in Experiments: A Review and Capital-Labor-Production Framework," Working Papers 1059, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  17. Hartog, Joop & Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada & Jonker, Nicole, 2002. "Linking Measured Risk Aversion to Individual Characteristics," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(1), pages 3-26.
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