Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


French, P. Edward

Committee Member

Shoup, Brian D.

Committee Member

Rush, Christine L.

Committee Member

Shaffer, Stephen D.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Public Policy and Administration

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Political Science and Public Administration


The purpose of this dissertation is twofold: first, this research aims to contribute to the understanding of the roots of public service motivation and explore whether it is appropriate to ground the public service motivation concept in institutional theory; second, this research will analyze the relationship between altruism, public service motivation, empathy levels, and prosocial behavior. The field of public administration has witnessed a proliferation of research in public service motivation, both internationally and across the United States. A substantial amount of research has been conducted at the federal and state levels on public service motivation, leaving the local level of government largely underrepresented. Researchers have developed and refined measurement techniques for the public service motivation construct and have extensively examined the consequences of public service motivation as they pertain to public management techniques and approaches. However, the role institutions play in the development of public service motivation is largely unexamined. Additionally, the impact of public service motivation on prosocial behavior has not been thoroughly examined. This research attempts to fill these gaps in the literature. Using data derived from survey responses from 903 employees of ten local governments in Mississippi, this research examines an underrepresented group in public service motivation literature. This research analyzes the role that various institutional antecedents play in the development of public service motivation among local government employees, finding that four out of the seven institutional antecedents studied were significant: educational level, parenting status, parental modeling, and spirituality. It also analyzes the impact of public service motivation, empathy, and altruism levels on the prosocial behavior of local government employees in society. Results show that public service motivation is positively correlated to prosocial behavior; whereas empathy and altruism are not statistically significant.