Dynamics of Public Service Motivation: Attraction‒Selection and Socialization in the Production and Regulation of Social Services


  • Anne Mette Kjeldsen is assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and Government, Aarhus University, Denmark. Her research interests include public service motivation in the public and private sectors, especially in the social services and health care, and distributed leadership and employee involvement in public sector reforms. E-mail: annemette@ps.au.dk


The literature on public service motivation (PSM) has typically focused on the relationship between motivation and public/private sector of employment, while the character of the work being performed has been neglected. Using panel surveys with pre- and postentry measures of PSM among certified Danish social workers, this article provides a unique design for investigating PSM-based attraction‒selection and socialization effects with respect to the choice between work related to service production or service regulation (controlled for public/private sector of employment). The article shows that the PSM profiles of social work students predict their preference for one of the two types of work tasks but do not predict first employment in the preferred job. Conversely, postentry shifts in social workers’ PSM profiles result from a complex interplay between influences from both work task and sector.