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Cheaters and Selfish People Prefer Government Jobs Over Private Sector -- At Least in One Large Country

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“Overall, we find that dishonest individuals ... prefer to enter government service.”

AP Photo/New York Daily News, James Keivom

Anthony Weiner, a former U.S. congressman notorious for his cheating scandal and then lying about it. (Source: AP)

An academic study may go a long way in settling a dispute between conservatives inherently skeptical of government versus progressives who frequently argue government work is somehow nobler than the private sector.

Cheaters and less generous (selfish) people are more likely to want to work in government – at least in India.

“Overall, we find that dishonest individuals — as measured by the dice task — prefer to enter government service,” according to a study by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School for business. “Importantly, we show that cheating on this task is also predictive of fraudulent behaviors by real government officials.”

The “dice task” was a reference to one of the games students played as part of the study – that sampled 662 college students in Bangalore, India, to measure honesty as well generosity or “prosocial behavior,” and what occupations students are more likely to enter, the U.K. Independent reported.

The study was published in the National Bureau of Economic Research.

In one aspect of the test, students rolled dice 42 times then then reported what number they received. The higher the number, the more they would be paid. The study found “cheating was rampant,” as more than a third reported abnormally high numbers. The students who cheated in the dice game were 6.3 percent more likely to want a government job.

The same test was given to government nursers. Cheating was not rampant with nurses, but among those who were believed to have cheated, fraudulent absenteeism was much higher.

Another test focused on prosocial behavior, defined as actions benefiting other people and society. Here too, less generous people wanted to work for the government.

Students were asked to divide money between themselves and charity, and what they gave to the charity would be doubled. Those giving the least wanted to work for the government.

Some of this could have to do with India's high level of corruption, researchers noted. India ranked 94 out of 176 on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index in 2012, the Independent reported.

“If people have the view that jobs in government are corrupt, people who are honest might not want to get into that system,” said Rema Hanna, an associate professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and one of the authors.

(H/T: The Independent)

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