Theory and Decision

, Volume 76, Issue 2, pp 241–263

Motivation and mission in the public sector: evidence from the World Values Survey

Article

Abstract

It is well-recognised that workers may have intrinsic—as well as extrinsic—motivations. Previous studies have identified that public sector workers typically have a higher level of intrinsic motivation, compared to workers in the private sector. This paper compares (measures of) intrinsic motivation among 30,000+ workers in the two sectors across 51 countries using data from the World Values Survey. We find that public sector workers exhibit higher intrinsic motivation in many countries, but that this is not a universal relationship. One possibility is that public sector mission may influence whether or not motivated workers choose to work in the sector. In support of this, we show that the level of (public) corruption—which plausibly affects mission—can explain some of the variation across countries in the proportion of motivated workers in the sector.

Keywords

Intrinsic motivation Public sector Corruption Worker selection 

References

  1. Aidt, T., Dutta, J., & Sena, V. (2008). Governance regimes, corruption and growth: Theory and evidence. Journal of Comparative Economics, 36(2), 195–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aknin, L. B., Barrington-Leigh, C. P., Dunn, E. W., Helliwell, J. F., Burns, J., Biswas-Diener, R., Kemeza, I., Nyende, P., Ashton-James, C. E., & Norton, M. I. (2013). Prosocial spending and well-being: Cross-cultural evidence for a psychological universal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(4), 635–652.Google Scholar
  3. Besley, T., & Ghatak, M. (2005). Competition and incentives with motivated agents. American Economic Review, 95(3), 616–636.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brewer, G. (2003). Building social capital: Civic attitudes and behavior of public servants. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 13, 5–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cole, M. (2006). Corruption, income and the environment: An empirical analysis. Ecological Economics, 62, 637–647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Delfgauuw, J., & Dur, R. (2008). Incentives and workers’ motivation in the public sector. The Economic Journal, 118(525), 171–191.Google Scholar
  7. Dur, R., Zoutenbier, R., (2011). Working For a Good Cause. Tinbergen Institute Working Paper, TI 2011–168/1.Google Scholar
  8. Francois, P., & Vlassopoulos, M. (2008). Pro-social motivation and the delivery of social services. CESifo Economic Studies, 54(1), 22–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Frank, S., & Lewis, G. (2004). Government employees: Working hard or hardly working? The American Review of Public Administration, 34, 36–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hall, R., & Jones, C. (1999). Why do some countries produce so much more output per worker than others? Quarterly Journal of Economics, 114, 83–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Houston, D. (2000). Public-service motivation: A multivariate test. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 10(4), 713–727.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Houston, D. (2006). Walking the walk of public service motivation: Public employees and charitable gifts of time, blood, and money. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 16, 67–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gregg, P., Grout, P., Ratcliffe, A., Smith, S., & Windmeijer, F. (2011). How important is pro-social behaviour in the delivery of public services? Journal of Public Economics, 95, 758–766.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gupta, S., Davoodi, H., & Alonso-Terme, R. (2002). Does corruption affect income inequality and the poor? Economics of Governance, 3, 23–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. John, P., & Johnson, M. (2008). Is There Still a Public Service Ethos? In A. Park, J. Curtice, K. Thompson, M. Phillips, M. Johnson, & E. Clery (Eds.), British Social Attitudes: The 24th Report. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  16. Lederman, D., Loayza, N., & Rodrigo, S. (2005). Accountability and corruption: Political institutions matter. Economics and Politics, 17, 1–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lewis, G., & Frank, S. (2002). Who wants to work for the government? Public Administration Review, 62(4), 395–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Perry, J., & Wise, L. (1990). The motivational bases of public service. Public Administration Review, 50(3), 367–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Perry, J., Hondeghem, A., & Wise, L. (2010). Revisiting the motivational bases of public service: Twenty years of research and an agenda for the future. Public Administration Review, 70(5), 681–690.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Persson, T., & Tabellini, G. (2003). The economic effect of constitutions: What do the data say?. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  21. Rainey, H., & Steinbauer, P. (1999). Galloping elephants: Developing elements of a theory of effective government organisations. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 9(1), 1–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Serra, D., Serneels, P., & Barr, A. (2011). Intrinsic motivations and the nonprofit health sector. Personality and Individual Differences, 31(3), 309–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Tabellini, G. (2008). Institutions and culture. Journal of the European Economic Association, 6(2–3), 255–294.Google Scholar
  24. Treisman, D. (2000). The causes of corruption: A cross-national study. Journal of Public Economics, 76, 399–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Van Rijckeghem, C., & Weber, B. (2001). Bureaucratic corruption and the rate of temptation: Do wages in the civil service affect corruption, and by how much? Journal of Development Economics, 65, 307–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Tonin, M., & Vlassopoulos, M. (2010). Disentangling the sources of pro-socially motivated effort: A field experiment. Journal of Public Economics, 94(11–12), 1086–1092.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Wright, B. E. (2007). Public service and motivation: Does mission matter? Public Administration Review, 67(1), 54–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Market and Public OrganisationUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  2. 2.Department of Economics and CMPOUniversity of BristolBristolUK

Personalised recommendations