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Millennials And Volunteering: Sector Differences And Implications For Public Service Motivation Theory

PAQ, Vol. 40 No. 3, (2016)

One of the most contested topics concerning the Millennial generation is the nature of their social-service orientation. While some experts characterize these young individuals as the most civically involved generation to date, others portray them as narcissistic and materialistic. Research from the field of public administration has shown that individuals with greater public service motivation (PSM) are more likely to work for government, and that individuals in this sector are also more likely to engage in other pro-social behaviors outside of work. Does this mean that Millennial workers currently in the public and nonprofit workforce resemble older workers in terms of their volunteering, or are they different along the lines identified in the broader literature on Millennials? Are there differences with respect to their participation in formal or informal settings or in certain domains of volunteering activity?
In this paper, relying on PSM theory and using a nationally representative sample of US citizens, the formal and informal participation activities of Millennial and older individuals working in different sectors are compared. Results from this research showed that government employees, as well as those working in the non-profit sector, have higher participation in most formal and informal activities. Millennials in public service have higher participation in most venues compared to their peers in the private sector, but not as much as their older counterparts. The domain of formal volunteering activity partly matters, in that, compared to older respondents, Millennials in the private sector have a higher likelihood of volunteering in a civic and health institution, and all Millennials have a lower likelihood of volunteering through or for a religious organization. The limitations of the study, as well as the implications of its findings, are discussed in the concluding section.

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