Working Paper 13/299 - abstract

Motivation and mission in the public sector: Evidence from the World Values Survey (PDF, 553kB)

Edd Cowley and Sarah Smith

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.