Are Future Bureaucrats More Prosocial?

38 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2017

See all articles by Markus S. Tepe

Markus S. Tepe

University of Bremen - Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy (SOCIUM)

Pieter Vanhuysse

University of Southern Denmark

Date Written: July 4, 2017


This article explores the associations between self-reported Public Service Motivation (PSM) and preferred job traits, study choice, and observable prosocial behavior. We study three subject pools covering over 250 university students in Germany. We use laboratory experiments with monetary rewards to measure altruism, fairness, strategic fairness, and cooperativeness, and a post-experimental survey on subjects’ PSM. Higher levels of PSM are not associated with studying public administration but are positively associated with altruism and negatively with strategic fairness. The experimental data reveals robust subject-pool effects. After controlling for PSM, public administration students behave more altruistically and display less merely strategic fairness than business students. And they behave more cooperatively than business and law students. These behavioral findings about future bureaucrats corroborate cumulative earlier survey evidence about the higher prosocial tendencies of public sector employees. They point to the danger of crowding out such tendencies through overly extrinsic management tools.

Keywords: laboratory experiments, subject pool effects, prosocial behavior, public service motivation, strategic fairness, cooperation, study choice, altruism, bureaucracy

JEL Classification: H83, H4, H3, J33, J38

Suggested Citation

Tepe, Markus S. and Vanhuysse, Pieter, Are Future Bureaucrats More Prosocial? (July 4, 2017). Forthcoming, Public Administration, Available at SSRN:

Markus S. Tepe (Contact Author)

University of Bremen - Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy (SOCIUM) ( email )

Mary-Somerville-Str. 5
Bremen, 28359

Pieter Vanhuysse

University of Southern Denmark ( email )

Campusvej 55
DK 5230 Odense

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