This dissertation adopts a behavioral public administration perspective to examine impartiality, risk aversion, and prosociality among public employees. These three attributes are often expected to be characteristic for public employees. To test the empirical validity of this claim and elaborating on the theoretical impact of impartiality, risk aversion, and prosociality for public employee behavior, a set of research methods allowing for internally valid and causal inferences is utilized. In doing so, this study contributes to the emerging field of micro-funded behavioral and experimental public administration research. The theoretical aim of this work is to develop a nuanced understanding of the motivation of public employees, which goes beyond purely utility-oriented economic and deterministic normative-legal views of bureaucratic actors. The empirical findings show that public employees’ attitudes and behavior partly meet the theoretical expectations towards higher levels of impartiality, risk aversion, and prosociality compared to their private sector counterparts. These results provide insights that specify the knowledge about the contextual and individual factors of the behavioral micro-foundations with regard to these attributes. Thus, impartiality is not consistently leading public employees’ attitudes, risk aversion needs to be differentiated in its self-identification aspects and its behavioral outcomes, and prosociality might have a social norm enforcement aspect that emerges in the public context. In methodological terms, this dissertation shows that survey- and lab-experimental methods are valuable tools to elicit fine-grained insights about the attitudes and behavior of public employees.
Successfully defended on 17th March 2020