Date of Award

Winter 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration and Urban Policy

Committee Director

John C. Morris

Committee Member

John R. Lombard

Committee Member

Drew Stelljes


This research builds upon the public service literature to better understand the distinctive nature of motivations associated with pursuing careers in the public sector. Previous research has shown that a wide variety of socialization experiences help to develop one's public service motivation (PSM). However, the research has fallen short of providing a comprehensive explanation. Additionally, a majority of the research focuses on those already employed in the public sector, with a dearth of exploration into students' preferences. This study utilized Perry's (1996) original survey instrument to measure PSM scores (both composite and dimensions) in college students, those who we must understand in order to attract and maintain vibrant public administrators with a public service ethos. Sixteen hypotheses were testing using bivariate analysis and a modified version of Perry's (1997) antecedent model, including the introduction of an educational socialization, was examined through multivariate regression and structural equation modeling (SEM) in order to ascertain which antecedent factors were most influential in students' PSM levels.

The study confirmed Perry's (1996) PSM construct by applying it to a group of undergraduate students. The findings on the effects of parental modeling of altruism and closeness to God on PSM levels in students support Perry's (1997) results. Additionally, several other variables, including a liberal political ideology and student volunteerism emerged as important antecedents. The modified political ideology construct had two variables with significant relationships with overall PSM level in both bivariate and multiple regression analysis—being liberal and having trust in government were positively related with overall NM level and several of the dimensions. Being more liberal was also found to be significant in the SEM analysis. The new educational socialization construct was also supported through bivariate, multivariate, and SEM analysis. Hypotheses testing revealed that students who majored in the humanities or social sciences, who indicated a preference towards finding employment in the public sector, who had participated in a service learning experience, and who participated in extra-curricular activities and volunteered (within or outside of their university experience) had higher mean PSM scores than those students who didn't.

Overall, the findings of this study support Perry's (1996, 1997) construct of PSM and his findings on several antecedent variables while expanding the knowledge of the effects of the educational socialization process on students, thus providing another avenue for future inquiry into the motivations of our future public leaders.


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