Why Are Promotions Less Likely in Nonprofit Firms?
We use data from the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality (MCSUI) employer survey to document a new empirical finding that workers are less likely to receive promotions in nonprofit firms than in for-profit firms. We propose an incentives-based explanation for this result and offer empirical evidence that is consistent with our hypothesis. At the heart of our explanation is a tradeoff between the incentive-provision and job-assignment roles of promotions. While for-profit firms must rely on promotions to serve both purposes, presumably achieving neither perfectly, we argue that nonprofits have the luxury of using promotions predominantly to achieve optimal job assignment. We conjecture that incentive creation may be less of a concern in nonprofit firms, where workers self-select and are often intrinsically motivated by interest in the firm’s output, thus allowing promotions to be used mainly to achieve efficient job assignments.
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