December 2016

IZA DP No. 10410: Trust the Police? Self-Selection of Motivated Agents into the German Police Force

Guido Friebel, Michael Kosfeld, Gerd Thielmann

published in: American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, 2019, 11 (4), 59-78

We conduct experimental games with police applicants in Germany to investigate whether intrinsically motivated agents self-select into this type of public service. Our focus is on trustworthiness and the willingness to enforce norms of cooperation as key dimensions of intrinsic motivation in the police context. We find that police applicants are more trustworthy than non-applicants, i.e., they return higher shares as second-movers in a trust game. Furthermore, they invest more in rewards and punishment when they can enforce cooperation as a third party. Our results provide clear evidence for self-selection of motivated agents into the German police force, documenting an important mechanism that influences the match between jobs and agents in public service.