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Working for a Good Cause

  • Dur, Robert


    (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

  • Zoutenbier, Robin


    (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

A rich literature in public administration has shown that public sector employees have stronger altruistic motivations than private sector employees. Recent economic theories stress the importance of mission preferences, and predict that altruistic people sort into the public sector when they subscribe to its mission. This paper uses data from a representative survey among more than 30,000 employees from 50 countries to test this prediction. We find strong evidence for a mutually reinforcing role of altruism and mission alignment in sorting to the public sector, particularly among highly educated workers and among workers in less-developed countries.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 7058.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2012
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Public Administration Review, 2014, 74(2), 144-155
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7058
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  1. Ghatak, Maitreesh & Mueller, Hannes, 2011. "Thanks for nothing? Not-for-profits and motivated agents," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(1), pages 94-105.
  2. Paul Gregg & Paul A. Grout & Anita Ratcliffe & Sarah Smith & Frank Windmeijer, 2008. "How important is pro-social behaviour in the delivery of public services?," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 08/197, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  3. Robert Dur & Robin Zoutenbier, 2013. "Intrinsic Motivations of Public Sector Employees: Evidence for Germany," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 623, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  4. Danila Serra & Pieter Serneels & Abigail Barr, 2010. "Intrinsic motivations and the non-profit health sector: Evidence from Ethiopia," Working Paper series, University of East Anglia, Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Science (CBESS) 10-01, School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK..
  5. Jacobsen, Karin J. & Eika, Kari H. & Helland, Leif & Lind, Jo Thori & Nyborg, Karine, 2011. "Are nurses more altruistic than real estate brokers?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 32(5), pages 818-831.
  6. Glazer, Amihai, 2004. "Motivating devoted workers," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 427-440, March.
  7. Ernst Fehr & Daniela Rützler & Matthias Sutter, 2011. "The Development of Egalitarianism, Altruism, Spite and Parochialism in Childhood and Adolescence," CESifo Working Paper Series 3361, CESifo Group Munich.
  8. James Andreoni & John Miller, 2002. "Giving According to GARP: An Experimental Test of the Consistency of Preferences for Altruism," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 737-753, March.
  9. Margaretha Buurman & Robert Dur & Seth Van den Bossche, 2009. "Public Sector Employees: Risk Averse and Altruistic?," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 09-067/1, Tinbergen Institute.
  10. Margaretha Buurman & Robert Dur, 2008. "Incentives and the Sorting of Altruistic Agents into Street-Level Bureaucracies," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 08-113/1, Tinbergen Institute, revised 14 Oct 2010.
  11. Tonin, Mirco & Vlassopoulos, Michael, 2010. "Disentangling the sources of pro-socially motivated effort: A field experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 1086-1092, December.
  12. Edd Cowley & Sarah Smith, 2013. "Motivation and mission in the public sector: Evidence from the World Values Survey," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 13/299, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  13. Canice Prendergast, 2007. "The Motivation and Bias of Bureaucrats," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 180-196, March.
  14. Andreoni, James, 1990. "Impure Altruism and Donations to Public Goods: A Theory of Warm-Glow Giving?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(401), pages 464-77, June.
  15. Lazear, Edward P, 1989. "Pay Equality and Industrial Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 561-80, June.
  16. Patrick Francois & Michael Vlassopoulos, 2008. "Pro-social Motivation and the Delivery of Social Services," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 54(1), pages 22-54, March.
  17. Ai, Chunrong & Norton, Edward C., 2003. "Interaction terms in logit and probit models," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 123-129, July.
  18. Francois, Patrick, 2000. "'Public service motivation' as an argument for government provision," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(3), pages 275-299, November.
  19. Serneels, Pieter & Lindelow, Magnus & Garcia-Montalvo, Jose & Barr, Abigail, 2005. "For public service or money : understanding geographical imbalances in the health workforce," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3686, The World Bank.
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