Note: These are my substantive research publications. For policy publications, see here. For methodological publications see here

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

with Jan Meyer-Sahling and Chrstian Schuster

Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 29(3):

445–459. 2018.

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.

(Un)Principled Principals, (Un)Principled Agents: The Differential Effects of Managerial Civil Service Reforms on Corruption in Developing and OECD Countries

with Jan Meyer-Sahling and Christian Schuster

Governance, 33(4): 829-848, 2020.

Abstract: Do management practices have similar anti-corruption effects in OECD and developing countries? Despite prominent cautions against 'New Zealand' reforms which enhance managerial discretion in developing countries, scholars have not assessed this question statistically. Our paper addresses this gap through a conjoint experiment with 6,500 public servants in three developing and one OECD country. Our experiment assesses Weberian relative to managerial approaches to recruitment, job stability and pay. We argue that in developing countries with institutionalized corruption and weak rule-of-law – yet not OECD countries without such features – 'unprincipled' principals use managerial discretion over hiring, firing and pay to favor 'unprincipled' bureaucratic agents who engage in corruption. Our results support this argument: managerial practices are associated with greater bureaucratic corruption in our surveyed developing countries, yet have little effect in our OECD country. Alleged ‘best practices’ in public management in OECD countries may thus be ‘worst practices’ in developing countries.

A Cross-Cultural Basis for Public Service? Public Service Motivation Measurement Invariance among 23,000 Public Servants in Four World Regions

with Jan Meyer-Sahling and Christian Schuster

International Public Management Journal, 2020.

Abstract: Public service motivation (PSM) is a core concept in public administration, studied in surveys across numerous countries. Whether these studies accumulate comparable knowledge about PSM crucially depends on PSM measurement invariance: that PSM has a similar measurement structure in different national contexts. Yet, large-scale cross-country research to address this conundrum remains scant. Drawing on an original survey of 23,000 public servants in ten countries in Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa, our paper addresses this gap. Replicating Kim et al.’s 16-item scale, we find partial metric invariance for the four PSM dimensions in eight countries, but scalar non-invariance. This suggests that results from structural equations about the causes and consequences of PSM may be compared across most countries, yet means of PSM and its dimensions are not generally comparable. PSM research thus cannot adjudicate in which countries public service motivation is higher or lower on average but can compare relationships between PSM and individual characteristics or management practices between countries. Our findings underscore the cross-cultural basis of public service motivation and its limits.

Other Publications

Burdens, Sludge, Ordeals, Red Tape, Oh My! A User's Guide to the Study of Frictions

(with  Jonas Krogh Madsen and Donald P. Moynihan).

Public Administration

Merit Recruitment, Tenure Protections and Public Service Motivation: Evidence from a Conjoint Experiment with 7,300 Public Servants in Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe

(with Jan Meyer-Sahling and Christian Schuster)

Public Administration

Codes of Ethics, Disciplinary Codes, and the Effectiveness of Anti-Corruption Frameworks: Evidence from Civil Servants in Poland

(With Jan Meyer-Sahling)

Review of Public Personnel Administration

Rallying around the Flag in Times of COVID-19: The Societal Lockdown in Denmark Substantially Increased Trust in Democratic Institutions among the Unemployed

(with Martin Bækgaard, Julian Christensen, and Jonas Krogh Madsen)

Journal of Behavioral Public Administration 3(2). 2020.

Responding to COVID‐19 Through Surveys of Public Servants

(with Christian Schuster, Lauren Weitzman, Jan-Hinrik Meyer-Sahling, Katherine Bersch, Francis Fukuyama, Patricia Paskov, Daniel Rogger, Dinsha Mistree, and Kerenssa Kay)

Public Administration Review 80(5). 2020.

Oiling the bureaucracy? political spending, bureaucrats and the resource curse

(with Adam S Harris, Rachel Sigman, Jan Meyer-Sahling, and Christian Schuster)

World Development 127. 2020.

Civil Service Management and Corruption: What We Know and What We Don’t

(with Jan Meyer-Sahling and Christian Schuster)

Public Administration 96(2), 276-285.

Old habits die hard, sometimes: History and civil service politicization in Europe.

International Review of Administrative Sciences 84(4): 803-819. 2018.

Civil service laws, merit, politicization, and corruption: The perspective of public officials from five East European countries.

(with Jan Meyer-Sahling)

Public Administration 94(4): 1105-1123. 2016.

Getting to Denmark, More or Less: Politics, Bureaucracy, and Corruption Success Stories in East Central Europe. Aarhus: Politica. 2015. PhD dissertation. ISBN: 9788773351918.

In murky waters: a disentangling of corruption and related concepts.

Crime, Law, and Social Change 60(4): 357-374. 2013.