A Life Worth Living: Evidence on the Relationship Between Prosocial Values and Happiness

Am Rev Public Adm. 2015 May ; 45(3): 311–326. doi:10.1177/0275074013493657.

21 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2019

See all articles by Donald P. Moynihan

Donald P. Moynihan

Georgetown University - McCourt School of Public Policy

Thomas DeLeire

Georgetown University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Kohei Enami

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Population Health Sciences

Date Written: May 2015

Abstract

Employees with a desire to help others provide benefits to their organization, clients, and fellow workers, but what do they get in return? We argue that the prosocial desire to help others is a basic human goal that matters to an individual’s happiness. We employ both longitudinal and cross- sectional data to demonstrate that work-related prosocial motivation is associated with higher subjective well-being, both in terms of current happiness and life satisfaction later in life. Cross- sectional data also suggest that perceived social impact (the belief that one’s job is making a difference) is even more important for happiness than the prosocial desire to help. The results show that the relationship between prosocial motivation and happiness is not limited to government employees, suggesting that in this aspect of altruistic behavior, public and private employees are not so different.

Keywords: motivation, happiness, public-private differences

Suggested Citation

Moynihan, Donald P. and DeLeire, Thomas and Enami, Kohei, A Life Worth Living: Evidence on the Relationship Between Prosocial Values and Happiness (May 2015). Am Rev Public Adm. 2015 May ; 45(3): 311–326. doi:10.1177/0275074013493657., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3484604

Donald P. Moynihan (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - McCourt School of Public Policy ( email )

Old North, Suite 100
37th & O Streets NW
Washington, DC 20057
United States

Thomas DeLeire

Georgetown University ( email )

37th and O Streets, NW
100 Old North
Washington, DC 20057
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Kohei Enami

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Population Health Sciences ( email )

610 Walnut St
Madison, WI 53726
United States

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