Public Service Motivation as a Predictor of Altruism, Dishonesty, and Corruption (WP-19-16)
Jordan Gans-Morse, Alexander Kalgin, Andrei Klimenko, Dmitriy Vorobyev, and Andrei Yakovlev
Understanding how Public Service Motivation (PSM) is tied to ethical or unethical behavior is critically important, given that civil servants and other public sector employees throughout the world have been shown to exhibit high PSM levels. However, empirical evidence about the relationship between PSM and ethical conduct remains limited, due in part to the challenges of observing illicit behaviors and overcoming social desirability bias in self-reported measures. The researchers address these challenges by employing incentivized experimental games to study the relationships between PSM and altruism, dishonesty, and propensity to engage in corruption. Based on data from approximately 1870 university students at three research sites in Russia and Ukraine, they find evidence of a robust positive association between PSM and altruistic behavior and negative association between PSM and willingness to engage in corruption. Results concerning dishonesty are more mixed. The researchers’ extension of the study of PSM to Russia and Ukraine, two countries that consistently rank poorly on international corruption indicators, additionally offers the opportunity to analyze the role of PSM in a context in which corruption and rule breaking are widespread.