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MissionSquare Research Institute Report Examines the Views of Younger Public Service Employees by Age

Personal Satisfaction, Job Security, and Salary Motivate Public Service, but Salary Drives Consideration of Job Changes

April 11, 2024

A new research brief from MissionSquare Research Institute comparing the sentiment of younger public service employees by age reveals that while personal satisfaction is a key factor in pursuing public service employment, a desire for higher wages is a driving factor for these workers contemplating a job change. Seventy-three percent of public service workers aged 27-35 considering a job change said a higher salary was their top reason for seeking other employment. For those aged 18-26, 64% considering leaving also said securing a higher salary was their top motivation.

The detailed insights are presented in the research brief, “35 and Under in the Public Sector: Comparisons by Age.” The report details opinions of public employees aged 18–26 and 27–35, as well as how those perspectives differ from those of older employees. Topics include views on their finances, employer benefits, morale, job satisfaction, and long-term career plans. Read the brief.

Select findings of the research are as follows:

  • The top factors that attracted those aged 18–26 to work in the public sector are personal satisfaction and salary (both 29%). For those aged 27–35, the top factors are job security (35%) and work/life balance (30%).

  • The age cohort that feels least financially secure are those aged 27–35, which corresponds to those who feel they have major or minor problems with debt.

  • Regarding retirement savings behavior, there appears to be division of reasons for not saving more by age. Those aged 18-26 were more likely to cite a lack of information or motivation, while those aged 27-35 were more likely to indicate that other financial reasons were holding them back.

Gerald Young, MissionSquare Research Institute Senior Research Analyst said, “It’s clear from our research that salary plays a key role in younger public service workers decisions to stay or leave their employer. While not all governments have the resources to offer higher salaries, job security, personal satisfaction, and health insurance are key factors that attract workers aged 35 and younger to the public sector, all of which typically are strengths for state and local government employers. It’s our hope that government leaders can tap into this data, along with our related analyses by profession, gender, race, and ethnicity, to develop a deeper understanding of what motivates younger job prospects and tailor their recruitment and retention efforts to best meet those interests.”

This research, which is based on a nationally representative online survey of 1,004 state and local government employees aged 35 and under, was conducted by Greenwald Research. It explores motivations for working in the public sector, attitudes about finances, views on employer benefits, retirement thoughts, morale, job satisfaction, and retention issues. The research follows a recent report exploring the views of younger public service workers, "35 and Under in the Public Sector: Why Younger Workers Enter and Why They Stay (or Don't)." Read the research.

About MissionSquare Research Institute

MissionSquare Research Institute promotes excellence in state and local government and other public service organizations to attract and retain talented employees. The organization identifies leading practices and conducts research on retirement plans, health and wellness benefits, workforce demographics and skill set needs, labor force development, and topics facing the not-for-profit industry and education sector. MissionSquare Research Institute brings together leaders and respected researchers. More information and access to research and publications are available on

About MissionSquare Retirement

Since our founding in 1972, MissionSquare Retirement has been dedicated to simplifying the path to retirement security for public service employees. As a mission-based, nonstock, nonprofit financial services company, we manage and administer over $76.5 billion in assets.* Our commitment to delivering results-oriented retirement plans, education, investments, and personalized advice sets us apart. Explore how we enable public service workers to build a secure financial future. For more information, visit or follow the company on Facebook, LinkedIn, and X.

*As of February 29, 2024. Includes 457, 401, 403(b), Retirement Health Savings (RHS) plans, Employer Investment Program (EIP) plans, affiliated IRAs, and investment-only assets.

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