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Losing prosociality in the quest for talent? Sorting, selection, and productivity in the delivery of public services

Ashraf, Nava, Bandiera, Oriana, Davenport, Edward and Lee, Scott (2020) Losing prosociality in the quest for talent? Sorting, selection, and productivity in the delivery of public services. American Economic Review, 110 (5). 1355 - 1394. ISSN 0002-8282

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Identification Number: 10.1257/aer.20180326


We embed a field experiment in a nationwide recruitment drive for a new health care position in Zambia to test whether career benefits attract talent at the expense of prosocial motivation. In line with common wisdom, offering career opportunities attracts less prosocial applicants. However, the trade-off exists only at low levels of talent; the marginal applicants in treatment are more talented and equally prosocial. These are hired, and perform better at every step of the causal chain: they provide more inputs, increase facility utilization, and improve health outcomes including a 25 percent decrease in child malnutrition.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 American Economic Association
Divisions: Economics
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
JEL classification: J - Labor and Demographic Economics > J2 - Time Allocation, Work Behavior, and Employment Determination and Creation; Human Capital; Retirement > J24 - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
O - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth > O1 - Economic Development > O15 - Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
M - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting > M5 - Personnel Economics > M54 - Labor Management (team formation, worker empowerment, job design, tasks and authority, work arrangemetns, job satisfaction)
D - Microeconomics > D8 - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty > D82 - Asymmetric and Private Information
Date Deposited: 20 Aug 2019 17:12
Last Modified: 16 Apr 2024 16:24

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