Selflessness: An International Comparative Analysis of a Much-Needed Public Value

Keywords: public values, selflessness, comparative analysis, interaction effects, regional impact


The purpose of this paper is to investigate how selflessness is to be measured and how it is to be explained. Adopting an innovative approach to measure selflessness, we assess its prevalence in different regions across the world. We also investigate the factors that explain its emergence and how they interact in predicting it. The level of selflessness differs significantly across the world. Considering the factors predicting it, we find that the likelihood of an individual exhibiting selflessness largely depends on the region they live in. Workplace also plays a crucial role – in OECD countries, working in the public sector increases the propensity for selflessness, but it has the opposite effect in Africa.
The research design involves a multivariate analysis of data from the World Values Survey using both straight-forward regression analyses and binary logistic regression.
The main findings show that the impact of factors traditionally considered important, such as religious affiliation and employment in the public, private, or not-for-profit sectors, varies across regions. These region-specific interaction effects are seen, for instance, in the influence of one’s workplace on their propensity for selflessness. Public sector employees are significantly more likely to be selfless than their private sector counterparts. However, while working in the public sector increases the likelihood of being selfless in OECD countries, this relationship is reversed in Africa.
In previous academic studies, little attention was paid to such interaction effects and the impacts of religious affiliation, public sector employment, gender, etc. were assumed to be stable all over the world. This study shows otherwise.
As per practical implications, the results of our analyses suggest that research on values needs to be contextualized. This is particularly important when research aims at offering advice to practitioners. Our investigation has shown that the same factors that enhance selflessness in one part of the world may decrease its presence in other regions. A one-size-fits-all approach is therefore not adequate.

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How to Cite
Andrews, C., & Vries, M. (2023). Selflessness: An International Comparative Analysis of a Much-Needed Public Value. Central European Public Administration Review, 21(2), 7-28.