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Working for a Good Cause

Authors

  • Robert Dur,

    1. Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands
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    • Robert Dur is professor of economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam and a research fellow at the Tinbergen Institute, CESifo Munich, and IZA Bonn. He has held visiting positions at Bocconi University, the University of Munich, and the University of Vienna. His research interests include personnel economics, organizational economics, public economics, and behavioral economics. E-mail: dur@ese.eur.nl
  • Robin Zoutenbier

    1. Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands
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    • Robin Zoutenbier is a PhD student in the Department of Economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam and the Tinbergen Institute. He is writing a dissertation on work motivations and incentives in the public sector. E-mail: zoutenbier@ese.eur.nl

Abstract

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 article uses data from a representative survey of more than 30,000 employees from 50 countries to test this prediction. The authors find strong evidence of a mutually reinforcing role of altruism and mission alignment in sorting into the public sector, particularly among highly educated workers and among workers in less-developed countries.

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