public service motivation correlated positively with a preference for the non-profit sector (R = .145 for civic duty

In the entire sample, public service motivation correlated positively with a preference for the non-profit sector (R = .145 for civic duty, .261 for compassion, and .267 for sacrifice), and negatively with a preference for the for-profit sector (R = -.269 for civic duty, -.275 for compassion, and -.177 for sacrifice). Surprisingly, there was no correlation between PSM and preference for public sector employment (.097 for civic duty, – .010 for compassion, and .108 for sacrifice). When the sample is split between Generation X and Millennial students, the correlation between PSM and preference for the nonprofit sector was higher among Generation X students (R values between .299 and .412) than among Millennials (R values between .100 and .229), which was the opposite of what was predicted in Hypothesis 4b. The statistical significance of this difference was tested by regressing preference for the non-profit sector on each PSM subscale, a dummy variable for generation, and an interaction term between the PSM subscale and the generational variable. This was also attempted using a variable that combined all three subscales. None of the interaction terms were statistically significant, but given the small number of Generation X students in the sample the statistical power may not have been adequate to detect the difference.

DISCUSSION This paper used a sample of 194 students at six public service graduate schools to compare Millennial and Generation X students on public service motivation and its antecedents, other prosocial behaviors, perceptions of the three sectors, and career plans. There were few statistically significant differences between Millennial and Generation X students, and most differences were small. Millennials reported higher parental education and more volunteer work in college, but there were no other significant differences in the antecedents of public service motivation. Millennials were less involved in religious activities and were less likely to vote. There were no significant differences in public service motivation. There were no significant differences in formal volunteering and registering as an organ donor, and small and inconsistent differences in blood

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donation and informal volunteering. Millennials had a slightly lower opinion of the for-profit sector than older students, but the differences between the two groups in regard to the non-profit and public sectors were small. There was support, however, for McGinnis’ (2011) assertion that Millennials are more concerned than older generations about the low salaries in the non-profit sector. The true amount of difference between Millennials and older students is probably even smaller than this study shows, as this study is cross-sectional and some of the observed differences may actually be age effects. For example, people in their 30’s and older are more settled geographically, making them more likely to vote in local elections. They are more likely to have children, and are therefore more likely to be involved in religious congregations and to help others with child care. Having lived more years, they have a greater likelihood of having ever given blood in their lives. The lack of difference between the generations in this sample may stem from the difference between public graduate students and the rest of the population. The sample consisted entirely of people who self-selected into service careers, and then were further selected by their decision to volunteer their time to complete the survey. Our findings tell us that a highly prosocial subsample of the Millennial generation resembles highly prosocial subsamples of older generations, but our data cannot generalize to explain generational differences in the population of all adults. Even among graduate students, the small sample size and moderate response rate limit its generalizability. Future studies, using more graduate schools and gaining a higher response rate and larger total sample, are needed to confirm the findings of this study. Despite these limitations, this study nevertheless advances knowledge of public service motivation and generational differences in several ways. The most important finding is the lack of differences between generations. While the popular media report “sweeping differences” between the Millennials and Generation X (Deal et al., 2010, p. 192), most academic studies find little or no difference, and this study is no exception. Graduate schools of public service do not need to

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rethink their programming to accommodate the different motivations or career plans of Millennial students, as there seem to be no meaningful differences between Millennials and the previous generation in these areas.

A second contribution of this study is that it supports the “selection-attraction” hypothesis of public service motivation (Perry et al., 2010). Both the Millennial and the Generation X students in the sample scored high on measures of public service motivation. There scores were as high or higher than those taken in earlier samples that included career public servants (Perry, 1997; DeHart-Davis et al., 2006). This provides some evidence to support the hypothesis that people already high in public service motivation choose public service careers, as opposed to the hypothesis that public sector employees learn public service motivation as part of their acculturation into their careers. However, given that nearly two-thirds of the sample was already working in the non-profit or public sector, it is also possible that their work experience had already led them to take on public service values.

Third, it is notable that all three PSM subscales correlated positively with intentions to work in the nonprofit sector, and negatively with the intention to work in the for-profit sector, but had no relationship with intention to work in the public sector. The author is unaware of any previous literature on PSM and intent to work in the for-profit sector, but it is not surprising that the two measures correlate negatively in this sample. Students attend public service graduate programs in order to pursue nonprofit or public sector employment, and it seems plausible that those most inclined to serve the public would also be those most insistent on working in one of those sectors. On the other hand, it is quite surprising that PSM does not correlate with a desire for public sector employment among public service graduate students, particularly given that the scale was originally developed to measure motives “grounded primarily or uniquely in public institutions or organizations” (Perry & Wise, 1990, p. 368). There were also no generational differences in sector preference or the correlation between preference and PSM, despite Millennials’ greater youth political activity and service work. This is not to say that political interest,

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volunteer experience, and public service motivation do not affect career choice, but it does suggest that the relationships between these factors and career choice are neither direct nor simple.

In addition to these three points, the analytical approach taken in this article has other implications for theory. Much of the PSM literature lacks connections to the research on prosocial motivation in other disciplines, particularly the relevant literature in psychology and sociology. The PSM compassion scale measures the same construct as Davis’ (1994) “empathic concern” measure, which is widely used in personality psychology. The PSM self-sacrifice scale measures a construct similar to moral obligation, which has been extensively studied by psychologists and sociologists (Einolf, 2010; Rossi, 2001; Schwartz, 1977; Schwartz & Fleishman, 1978). Despite these similarities, articles on PSM rarely mention these studies. Some public administration scholars have studied how public service motivation relates to volunteering and charitable giving (Houston 2005), but there seems to be relatively little research on its relation to other prosocial actions such as person to person helping, religious participation (Houston, Freedman, & Feldman 2008), and civic and political activity (Brewer 2003). This article begins to trace the relationships between public service motivation and antecedents, motivations, and behaviors studied in other disciplines; future articles should continue to take a wide view of public service motivation and its correlates, and should engage the research literature from outside the field of public administration. The findings of this article have implications for practice, as they can inform the staff and professors of schools of public service, and also suggest future trends for the leadership of the public and nonprofit sectors. The similarities between the two generations indicate that graduate programs in public service do not have to change their approach to accommodate changes in the values, norms, and career goals of their student population. New students should have the same high levels of public service motivation, and they differ little from older students in their perceptions of the three sectors and their career plans. Professors can continue to expect students to demonstrate the high values and commitment to public service that we have seen in the past.

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Most of the significant differences between the Millennials and Generation X students are positive, as a larger proportion of Millennials went to colleges with a stronger service culture, did volunteer work in college, and studied abroad. Thus, more Millennial students come into graduate programs with prior experience of a culture of service and service work, and greater international and cross-cultural awareness. These experiences do not cause them to score significantly higher on the PSM scales when they enter graduate programs, but may make them more receptive to the culture of public service in graduate school. Future research can use longitudinal data to see whether childhood and college experiences correlate encourage the further development of PSM during graduate school.

The only worrisome finding for teachers and the public sector relates to the lack of correlation between public service motivation and interest in public sector work, which is found among both Generation X and Millennial students. This may represent a generational shift away from the values of the Baby Boom generation, but there were not enough older students in the sample to test whether the two younger generations differed from the boomers. A renewed interest in politics and activism among Generation X in general (Fisher, 2012) does not seem to lead to higher interest in public sector employment among graduate students in particular.

If students high in public service motivation prefer the nonprofit sector, will this deprive the public sector of service- oriented future leaders? Perhaps public service graduate programs can do more to encourage students to view the public sector as a place where they can put their public service motivation into practice. These programs do not need to change their teaching methods to accommodate the different motivations or career plans of Millennial students, but may need to work harder to make public sector employment more attractive to the students of both generations who are highly motivated to serve the public.

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