Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Millennials' Public Service Motivation and Sector Choice-A Panel Study of Job Entrants in Germany

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Millennials' Public Service Motivation and Sector Choice-A Panel Study of Job Entrants in Germany

Article excerpt


Public service motivation (PSM; Perry & Wise, 1990) is a prominent construct in the Public Administration literature. Since its introduction over two decades ago, a substantive body of research investigating the character (Kim, 2011) and consequences of PSM (for a review see Perry, Hondeghem & Wise, 2010) has been accumulating. Drawing on the concept of person-environment fit (Leisink & Steijn, 2008; Steijn, 2008) and the Attraction-Selection-Attrition-Cycle (Schneider, 1987), one question has received particular attention: the extent to which PSM affects sector choice, i.e. the decision to seek employment in the public (vs. the private or non-profit) sector. Extant results provide some evidence that PSM may have a positive impact on the likelihood of seeking public employment (Perry et al., 2010), where the latter is often treated as synonymous with employment by the government (Holzer & Schwester, 2011; Peters & Pierre, 2007). However, this stream of research appears to be in need of more nuanced investigations as some studies have found no link between PSM and sector choice (Kjeldsen & Jacobsen, 2012). In addition, a lot of research efforts have suffered from methodological shortcomings, as they predominantly employed intention-based measures of sector choice as well as cross-sectional designs (Wright & Grant, 2010).

An additional aspect of recent interest is the combination of research on PSM with studying differences between generations in the workforce (Ng et al., 2012; Taylor, 2012). This new field, while providing some interesting first insights, remains open. In particular, very little is known about Millennials in Germany (Breitsohl & Ruhle, 2012), especially concerning the relationship between PSM and Millennials' inclination to join public sector organizations for employment. We address these issues by investigating the impact of PSM on sector choice for Millennials entering the German job market. We examined how the likelihood of joining the public sector is influenced not only by PSM but also by other important work preferences (material work aspects, low work strain, and intrinsic work motivators) in Millenials. Our analysis is based on a sample drawn from a representative panel data set, which allowed us to draw stronger inferences compared to earlier studies. We found that job entrants were more likely to join the public sector after exhibiting higher levels of PSM, indicating the relevance of person-environment fit between individuals high on PSM and organizations in the public sector. We also investigated other work preferences and found that valuing intrinsic job motivators decreased the likelihood of seeking public sector employment.

The remainder of this article is structured as follows. First, we summarize extant research on PSM, person-environment fit, sector choice, and Millennials. Second, we present our hypotheses based on the preceding section. Third, we describe our methods, followed by, fourth, the results of our analysis. Finally, we discuss these findings, limitations, and implications while pointing out avenues for further research.



The construct of PSM was first introduced by Perry and Wise (1990). Based on a decline in public trust and participation in civil services, they sought to answer the question what motivates people to seek public sector employment besides self-interest, proposing PSM as "an individual's predisposition to respond to motives grounded primarily or uniquely in public institutions and organizations" (Perry & Wise, 1990: 368). Originally, PSM reflected three components: a rational dimension that is based on personal identification and private interest; a norm-based dimension that reflects loyalty to and desire to serve the public; and an affective dimension rooted in the social importance of public service. …

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