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Intrinsic motivations and the non-profit health sector: Evidence from Ethiopia


  • Danila Serra

    (Florida State University)

  • Pieter Serneels

    (School of International Development and CBESS, University of East Anglia)

  • Abigail Barr

    (University of Oxford)


Economists have traditionally assumed that individual behavior is motivated exclusively by extrinsic incentives. Social psychologists, in contrast, stress that intrinsic motivations are also important. In recent work, economic theorists have started to build psychological factors, like intrinsic motivations, into their models. Besley and Ghatak (2005) propose that individuals are differently motivated in that they have different "missions," and their self-selection into sectors or organizations with matching missions enhances organizational efficiency. We test Besley and Ghatak's model using data from a unique cohort study. We generate two proxies for intrinsic motivations: a survey-based measure of the health professionals philanthropic motivations and an experimental measure of their pro-social motivations. We find that both proxies predict health professionals' decision to work in the non-profit sector. We also find that philanthropic health workers employed in the non-profit sector earn lower wages than their colleagues.

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  • 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..
  • Handle: RePEc:uea:wcbess:10-01

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gregg, Paul & Grout, Paul A. & Ratcliffe, Anita & Smith, Sarah & Windmeijer, Frank, 2011. "How important is pro-social behaviour in the delivery of public services?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7-8), pages 758-766, August.
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    6. Glaeser, Edward L. & Shleifer, Andrei, 2001. "Not-for-profit entrepreneurs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 99-115, July.
    7. Reinikka, Ritva & Svensson, Jakob, 2004. "Working for God?," CEPR Discussion Papers 4214, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Timothy Besley & Maitreesh Ghatak, 2005. "Competition and Incentives with Motivated Agents," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 616-636, June.
    9. Josse Delfgaauw & Robert Dur, 2008. "Incentives and Workers' Motivation in the Public Sector," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(525), pages 171-191, January.
    10. Barr, Abigail & Fafchamps, Marcel & Owens, Trudy, 2005. "The governance of non-governmental organizations in Uganda," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 657-679, April.
    11. 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.
    12. repec:hrv:faseco:33078971 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Leonard, Kenneth L., 2002. "When both states and markets fail: asymmetric information and the role of NGOs in African health care," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 61-80, July.
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    16. Canice Prendergast, 2007. "The Motivation and Bias of Bureaucrats," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 180-196, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Galizzi, Matteo M. & Navarro-Martínez, Daniel, 2018. "On the external validity of social preference games: a systematic lab-field study," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 84088, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    2. Barr, Abigail & Packard, Truman & Serra, Danila, 2012. "Participatory accountability and collective action : evidence from field experiments in Albanian schools," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6027, The World Bank.
    3. Matteo M. Galizzi & Daniel Navarro-Martínez, 2015. "On the External Validity of Social Preference Games: A Systematic Lab-Field Study," Working Papers 802, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    4. Hannes Koppel & Tobias Regner, 2011. "Corporate Social Responsibility in the work place - Experimental evidence on CSR from a gift-exchange game," Jena Economic Research Papers 2011-030, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    5. Robert Dur & Robin Zoutenbier, 2011. "Working for a Good Cause," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 11-168/1, Tinbergen Institute, revised 23 Apr 2013.
    6. Grant Miller & Kimberly Singer Babiarz, 2013. "Pay-for-Performance Incentives in Low- and Middle-Income Country Health Programs," NBER Working Papers 18932, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Barr, Abigail & Packard, Truman & Serra, Danila, 2014. "Participatory accountability and collective action: Experimental evidence from Albania," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 250-269.
    8. Tobias Regner & Hannes Koppel, 2015. "What drives motivated agents? The 'right' mission or sharing it with the principal," Jena Economic Research Papers 2015-022, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity


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