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Altruism and Burnout: Long Hours in the Teaching Profession

Dora Gicheva

No 20-7, UNCG Economics Working Papers from University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Department of Economics

Abstract: This paper addresses the question of why many public school teachers work substantially more hours than required by contract given that the elasticity of earnings with respect to hours is close to zero in this occupation. I introduce a theoretical framework in which some public sector employees are intrinsically motivated to supply effort above the level stipulated by their contract, while others have low productivity and require high effort to maintain the minimally required level of output. In this setting, high levels of effort can be indicative of either altruism or low productivity. Because intrinsically motivated employees derive higher utility from working in the public sector, they are less likely to exit it. Over time, selection makes high levels of effort more strongly predictive of altruism than of low ability. I show empirical evidence consistent with this model from the market for public school teachers, where I define effort as working hours. At very low levels of experience, there is little or no relationship between weekly hours and the probability of remaining in teaching or a subjective measure of intrinsic motivation. These correlations become more positive as teaching experience increases. Similarly, hours are positively relate to self-reported burnout at low levels of experience, but the relationship is reversed for teachers who have been in the profession longer.

Keywords: intrinsic motivation; working hours; teachers; public sector labor markets (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I21 J22 J45 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 56 pages
Date: 2020-08-25
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-lma
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