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April 1983, Vol. 106, No. 4
Work and work force characteristics
in the nonprofit sector
Philip H. Mirvis and Edward J. Hackett
Increasing proportions of the U.S. work force have been attracted to employment in private nonprofit institutionsorganizations which constitute the third sector of the economy.1 The popular view is that these persons are attracted by the ideals of selfless service and work fulfillment, and have chosen to avoid the competitiveness of profitmaking firms, and the impersonality of government bureaucracy. But the view also holds that low pay, job pressures, and lack of resources cause these workers to seek employment in other sectors. This study examines such popular views by comparing characteristics of work and the work force in the for-profit, government, and nonprofit sectors, using data from the 1977 Quality of Employment Survey, conducted by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.
Sociologists, psychologists, and economists have treated organization size and technology, employee background and personality, and industry and occupation as the key explanatory factors in their models of the quality of employment. Sectorfor-profit, government, or nonprofitrepresents an important but neglected facet of the work environment. The nature of an organization's missionto make a profit, to serve the citizenry, or to educate, entertain, and cure privately but without profitpermeates its culture and identity. It serves both as a selector and a socializer, attracting particular segments of the work force and motivating and satisfying them with particular rewards. To assess the degree to which sector shapes the quality of employment, this study compares third-sector working people with government and profit-sector employees.
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1 For data on the characteristics and growth of the third sector, see Dale L. Hiestand, "Recent Trends in the Not-For-Profit Sector," in Commission on Private Philanthropy and Public Needs (U.S. Department of the Treasury, 1977), pp. 333-37; and T. Nichlaus Tideman, "Employment and Earnings in the Non-Profit Charitable Sectors," in Commission on Private Philanthropy and Public Needs (U.S. Department of the Treasury, 1977), pp. 325-31. For an up-to-date estimate of sector contours, see G. Rudney, "A Quantitative Profile of the Nonprofit Sector," Working Paper 40, PONPO (New Haven, Conn., Yale University, 1981).
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