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What Matters Most? Examining Attraction to Public Service Jobs and its Implications for the Future of Public Service


Although issues of capacity and expertise/competence had long plagued public service organizations, they were exacerbated by the pandemic and its lingering effects. Specifically, U.S. state and local governments have struggled to effectively retain talent, attract younger job seekers, and build out an age-diverse workforce. 

The latter has become especially salient in public administration, with social equity being elevated as a core public service value and the demonstrated performance benefits of a(n) (effectively managed) diverse workforce. More historically, public organizations have sought to be demographically representative institutions, with recognizable implications for responsiveness among street-level bureaucrats, especially in arenas with administrative discretion.

The objective of this paper is to address these policy-salient concerns by examining how individual values, job functions, reward preferences, and demographic profiles affect job attractiveness. To do so, I utilize a large-scale pre-registered conjoint experiment that randomly assigns values to independent variables, and produces an average marginal component effect of the independent variables on job attractiveness.

By devoting specific attention to changes in the nature of work itself, as well as differences in the needs and work values of individuals across age, gender, and racial groups, the findings shed light on how the future of the public service may align with the needs of a diverse polity.