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The Causal Effect of Public Service Motivation on Ethical Behavior in the Public Sector: Evidence from a Large-Scale Survey Experiment

Meyer-Sahling, Jan-Hinrik; Mikkelsen, Kim Sass; Schuster, Christian

Authors

Kim Sass Mikkelsen

Christian Schuster



Abstract

Public service motivation (PSM) and ethical behavior are central concerns in public administration. Yet, experimental evidence on the causes of ethical behavior and the causal effects of PSM remains scarce, curtailing our understanding of both. This article draws on a novel survey experimental design to improve this understanding. The design is based on a simple insight: asking about PSM can render salient PSM-oriented identities of respondents. By randomizing the order of PSM and outcome questions, PSM may be exogenously activated among survey respondents, and the causal effects of this activation assessed. Drawing on this design and a sample of over 5,000 Chilean central government employees—the largest experimental PSM survey sample to date—we find that PSM activation enhances willingness to report ethical problems to management. This provides the first experimental evidence that PSM may promote ethical behavioral intent, and suggests that activating public employees’ PSM can benefit public sector ethics.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2019-07
Journal Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Print ISSN 1053-1858
Electronic ISSN 1477-9803
Publisher Oxford University Press (OUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 29
Issue 3
Pages 445–459
APA6 Citation Meyer-Sahling, J., Mikkelsen, K. S., & Schuster, C. (2019). The Causal Effect of Public Service Motivation on Ethical Behavior in the Public Sector: Evidence from a Large-Scale Survey Experiment. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 29(3), 445–459. https://doi.org/10.1093/jopart/muy071
DOI https://doi.org/10.1093/jopart/muy071
Keywords Marketing; Sociology and Political Science; Public Administration
Publisher URL https://academic.oup.com/jpart/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jopart/muy071/5245901
Additional Information This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication inJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory following peer review. The version of record Jan-Hinrik Meyer-Sahling, Kim Sass Mikkelsen, Christian Schuster; The Causal Effect of Public Service Motivation on Ethical Behavior in the Public Sector: Evidence from a Large-Scale Survey Experiment, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, , muy071 is available online at:https://academic.oup.co.../jopart/muy071/5245901.
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