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Judgment of Volunteer Competence among Service Professionals: Stereotypes or Skills?

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  • Ulrich Thy Jensen, Arizona State University
  • ,
  • Mette Kjærgaard Thomsen, University of Southern Denmark

While public service professionals may rely on stereotypes and social categories in exercising who gets what, when and how in clientelist citizen-state interactions, it remains unclear whether negative judgments similarly pervade in settings where citizens help produce–rather than consume–public services. We propose that service professionals judge volunteers as incompetent based on (1) a lack of the skills necessary to solve specific tasks, and/or (2) negative stereotypes toward volunteers as a means of shielding the privileged position of the profession or safeguarding the quality of services. Using an experiment among 817 nursing home professionals, negative judgments of volunteer competence were invoked simply by priming professionals to think of citizens volunteering in service production. The effect, however, is not conditional on the type of task (complementary vs. core) solved by volunteers, suggesting that judgments of competence mainly stem from stereotypes of volunteer (in)competence in assisting with service production.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Administration Review
Pages (from-to)225-236
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

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