The Prestige Value of Public Employment in Chicago:
Chapter I: The Experiment

Leonard D. White


In the course of an earlier study of public employment in Chicago,[1] I became convinced that the morale of thousands of city employees and officials was deeply affected by their conception of what the public thinks about them. Again and again complaints were made that "people don't understand or appreciate what we are doing," or "people think we are a bunch of loafers or crooks," or "we never get any notice in the newspapers except when something goes wrong."

An individual's conception of the value of his work is profoundly affected by what others think of it, and by what he thinks others think of it. It is theoretically clear that scales of social values varying from group to group are attached to different callings and professions. A profession presumably commands a greater recognition or prestige than an occupation; organized occupations, greater prestige than unorganized; and within each of these large divisions subordinate scales of values undoubtedly exist.

These scales of values tend to sustain each individual's view of his place in society, and, generally speaking, each seeks employment, within a range circumscribed by interests, abilities, and opportunities, where the prestige value is greatest. Thus an elevator man prefers to operate a lift at the University of Chicago because he values the privilege of being associated with the University. He can

(2) boast of knowing such and such a "professor," and he acquires a subtle, even though slight, standing just because he works in a building of unusual dignity and beauty.

The major presumption of the present study may be put in general terms in something like the following statement. The morale (and hence in part the efficiency) of any group is affected by the group's conception of its social evaluation. This presumption is not subjected to proof in the following pages, but is adopted forthwith as an axiom whose implications with regard to a specific group, the employees and officials of the city of Chicago, are examined.

If this proposition be accepted for the purpose of this study, it becomes important to inquire into the social evaluation of public employment in Chicago. It flows from the presumption of the preceding paragraph that if the prestige value of a city-hall job is high, that fact alone will tend to stimulate a desirable type of young man and woman to enter the service, to maintain a self-respecting ideal of conduct within the service, and to energize a constant effort to make the real correspond to the ideal conception of public service. If, on the other hand, the prestige value of a city-hall job is low, that fact alone has a tendency to discourage the best-equipped young people to seek employment there, as well as to exercise a subtle, disintegrating influence on the standards of those who are in the city service.

The analysis of the psychological environment of public employment in Chicago therefore becomes the direct object of the present inquiry. We desire to know whether the psychological matrix surrounding public employment is favorable or unfavorable; we seek a mathematical statement of the degree of its plus or negative quality; we are interested in the differentials which appear in the opinions

(3) of selected groups of Chicago citizens, whether by sex, race, age, education, occupation, or economic status; and, finally, we are interested in specific opinions on selected phases of public employment which accompany and indeed comprise the total psychological complex.


A social attitude toward public employment may be favorable, neutral, or unfavorable in varying degrees. In any case it is laid open for investigation by discovering the proportion of individual preferences for an official position when compared with an unofficial position of substantially equivalent character. If we ask one hundred representative persons whether they feel a higher esteem for an electrical engineer employed by the Western Electric Company or for an electrical engineer employed by the city of Chicago at the same salary and with similar duties, we se-cure responses which can be dealt with quite concretely. Theoretically, any range of opinion might emerge, from one hundred preferences for the position with the Western Electric Company to one hundred preferences for the position with the city of Chicago.

Theoretically, if each class of city positions was thus explored something would be learned of the content of the public mind with regard to the whole range of public employment. Actually this could not be done, and the process of sampling was resorted to by selecting twenty characteristic occupations, representing a considerable proportion of the total range of public employment. The nature of this sample will be discussed shortly.

Theoretically, also, each resident of Chicago should be invited to express his opinion of the relative prestige values of each position, or of the selected positions. This again

(4) would have imposed an impossible task, and the process of sampling was again resorted to. Ultimately 4,680 residents of Chicago expressed an opinion to our interviewers and were recorded on the schedule described below. The nature of the population sample will also be described be-low, but it may be stated here that none of the subjects were city-hall employees.

Two schedules were devised, of which the first contained two parts. The first section presented twenty paired occupations; the second part proposed fifteen questions concerning the relative merits of public and private employment, and invited certain personal data. This schedule is reproduced herewith. The second, or supplementary schedule, provided a word-association test, a rating scale for the twenty occupations as against each other, and three rating scales to test opinion as to courtesy, honesty, and efficiency of city employees. It is reproduced on page 13.


The following pairs of occupations are intended to be substantially equivalent as to salary and duties.

Check (√ ) in each pair the occupation for which you have the higher esteem.

Consider each pair as a unit without reference to other pairs, and deal with it before considering the next pair.

1.  ( ) Stenographer, Treasurer's Office, Equitable Life Insurance Co.
  ( ) Stenographer, Treasurer's Office, City of Chicago.

2. ( ) Accountant, Department of Public Works, City of Chicago.
  ( ) Accountant, George A. Fuller Construction Co.

3. ( ) Janitor, First National Bank.
  ( ) Janitor, City Hall Building.

4.  ( ) Electrical Engineer, Western Electric Co.
  ( ) Electrical Engineer, Department of Electricity, City of Chicago.


5.  ( ) Bureau Chief, Department of Buildings, City of Chicago.
  ( ) Bureau Chief, Commonwealth Edison Company.

6.  ( ) Chauffeur, St. Luke's Hospital.
  ( ) Chauffeur, Department of Health, City of Chicago.

7.  ( ) Private Policeman, Union Terminal Station, Chicago.
  ( ) Policeman, City of Chicago.

8.  ( ) Telephone Operator, City Hall Building.
  ( ) Telephone Operator, Marshall Field Company.

9.  ( ) Architectural Draftsman, City of Chicago.
  ( ) Architectural Draftsman, Holabird & Roche Co.

10.     ( ) Nurse, City Emergency Hospital.
  ( ) Nurse, Presbyterian Hospital.

11.     ( ) Watchman, Continental & Commercial Bank.
  ( ) Watchman, City Hall Building.

12.     ( ) Senior File Clerk, City Clerk's Office.
  ( ) Senior File Clerk, The Peoples Gas Light and Coke Co.

13.     ( ) Assistant District Engineer, George A. Fuller Construction Co.
  ( ) Assistant City Engineer, City of Chicago.

14.     ( ) Detective, Police Department, City of Chicago.
  ( ) Detective, William J. Burns Detective Agency.

15.     ( ) Chief Statistician, Commercial Exchange National Bank.
  ( ) Chief Statistician, Comptroller's Office, City of Chicago.

16.     ( ) Machinist, Yellow Cab Co.
  ( ) Machinist, Department of Public Works, City of Chicago.

17.     ( ) Library Assistant, Chicago Public Library.
  ( ) Library Assistant, Crerar Library.

18.     ( ) Junior Clerk, City Hall Building.
  ( ) Junior Clerk, Illinois Bell Telephone Company.

19 ( ) Chemist, Department of Health, City of Chicago.
  ( ) Chemist, Sinclair Refining Co.

20.     ( ) Elevator Starter, City Hall Building.
  ( ) Elevator Starter, Wrigley Building.

CODE ANSWERS: (1) Yes; (2) Doubtful, no difference, or unable to answer; (3) No.

I.   Do you get more courteous attention in dealing with city  1 2 3

(6)    employees than in dealing with employees of private corporations?   1 2 3

2.  Are city employees more competent than employees of private corporations?  1 2 3

3.  Is the average degree of honesty and uprightness of city employees higher than that of employees of private corporations?     1 2 3

4.  Are city employees required to work harder than employees of private corporations?    1 2 3

5.  Are city employees more willing to give favors to persons with influence than are employees of private corporations? 1 2 3

6.  Are city employees as active in seeking to improve city service as employees of private corporations are to improve theirs? 1 2 3

7.  Are the chances to get ahead in the city service as good as in the service of private corporations? 1 2 3

8.  Do people generally think more highly of employment in the city hall than of employment with private corporations? 1 2 3

9.  Have your own dealings with public employees and officials been satisfactory?   1 2 3

10.     Is the opportunity to attract public attention greater in city than in private employment?     1 2 3

11.     Is the experience gained in city employment more valuable than in private employment?   1 2 3

12.     Is a city job more likely to be permanent than a job with a private employer?   1 2 3

13.     Is a city job more useful than a private job for the purpose of acquiring political influence? 1 2 3

14.     Are working conditions better in city employment than in private employment?   1 2 3

15.     Is merit more fully recognized in city employment than in private employment?  1 2 3

1.  Date  Filled by     (interviewer)    _ 

2.  Sex (1. M.) (2. F.)  


3.  Color (1. W.)   (2. C.) 

4.  Country of birth (10. U.S.), (21. Ir.), (22. Ger.), (23. Norw.), (24. Swed.). (25. Can.), (26. Eng.), (27. Ot. old), (31. Cz.), (32. Rus.), (33. Aus.), (34. It.), (35. Hung.), (36. Pol.), (37. Lith.), (38. Ot. new) 

5.  Country of birth of father (10. U.S.), (21. Ir.), (22. Ger.), (23. Norw.), (24. Swed.), (25. Can.), (26. Eng.), (27. Ot. old), (31. Cz.), (32. Rus.), (33. Aus.), (34. It.), (35. Hung.), (36. Pol.), (37. Lith.), (38. Ot. new) 

6.  Place of birth (1. Urban)    (2. Rural) 

7.  Age in years    

8.  Occupation

9.  Years residence in Illinois

10.     Years residence in Cook County  

11.     Read English (1. Yes)    (2. No.) 

12.     Years in school    

13.     Rent per room per month   

The first sheet presents twenty paired occupations, one of which in each case is public, the other private. In the latter case the position was associated with the name of some well-known large-scale Chicago corporation or enterprise; the effort was to eliminate any differential owing to the wider acquaintance of citizens with the city as such. Marshall Field and Company, the Commonwealth Edison Company, the Western Electric Company, the People's Gas Light and Coke Company, the Yellow Cab Company, the Illinois Bell Telephone Company, and the Wrigley Building are almost as universally known as the city government, or the city and county building. The other private corporations are all widely known in Chicago.

The positions in each pair were stated, both in print and orally, to be substantially equivalent as to salary and duties. The intent was to focus attention on the single variable of the public or private character of the position

(8) and the degree of esteem or prestige associated therewith. Parity of salaries and duties was sometimes questioned, and in some cases choices were definitely made on the view that the city-hall position actually paid more, or less, than the private position. Both views were taken; in what pro-portions is not known. But on the whole it is believed that the subject accepted the instructions that the positions were substantially identical in pay and duties, and that the departures from this view tended to neutralize each other.

The range of occupations given in the twenty pairs was the subject of long and careful attention. A preliminary list of about eighty pairs was compiled by the writer with the aid of a research assistant and a group of graduate students. This list was reduced to about thirty, and was presented to members of the Department of Political Science for criticism, as a result of which others were added, and the total then reduced to twenty. This list was then criticized by informed persons outside the University and the final selection made.

The final choice was governed by (1) a desire to secure representative and characteristic positions in the public service; (2) a desire to secure positions which would be familiar to most residents of the city; (3) a desire to secure a wide range of positions, from the humble to the important, from labor through clerical to technical, professional, and scientific positions, from routine to supervisory posts, from indoor to outdoor occupations; (4) a desire to choose positions for which a real equivalent could be found in non-public work; and (5) a desire to secure positions which so far as could be foreseen would probably call forth differences in esteem.

The second part of this schedule introduced a series of fifteen questions intended (1) to reveal general opinion

(9) about and personal experience with public officials and employees (questions 8 and 9), and (2) to reveal opinions on some of the significant bases of judgment of public employment, such as courtesy, competence, integrity, industry, partiality, ambition, opportunity, publicity value, experience value, permanence, influence, working conditions, and the recognition of merit. It was recognized that subjects would be unable to express an opinion with reference to some of these questions, and in each case opportunity was given to make a non-committal response.

Instead of using these fifteen specific questions, the search for opinion might have been left open to the interviewer, requesting him in each case to explore the mind of the subject by relevant question and answer. After some consideration this method was abandoned for fear the interviewer would soon build up a pattern into which, perhaps unconsciously, would be fitted the responses made to him. We might also have proceeded by requesting each subject to write his opinion at such length as he desired. This would probably have resulted in some illuminating points of view, but would have given no material which could be handled statistically.

The questions were selected after conference with members of the Department of Political Science on the basis of their combined experience and judgment as to what would be most significant. Other significant criteria may well exist which this study does not deal with.

The last section of the second part of this schedule was designed to secure personal data which was thought likely to reveal significant differentials. Item 9, "Years residence in Illinois," was omitted in favor of item 10; item 11, "Read English," was discarded. Originally it was thought probable that the questionnaire would be translated into

(10) the foreign languages of major importance but this plan was abandoned for lack of resources. The only item which gave trouble was rent per room per month. Many refused to divulge this information, and so many variations developed that the answers have to be treated with great care. The method of handling is discussed in chapter viii and, in general, detailed analysis of each item is discussed in the appropriate succeeding chapter.

The schedules were filled in each case under the immediate personal supervision of an interviewer. The instructions issued to the interviewers are reprinted in the following paragraphs.


1.  Make careful preparation for each interview, securing an appointment where possible and indicating that about twenty minutes' time will be consumed. 

2.  Assure the subject that his responses are confidential, that he is not requested to give his name, and that it is impossible to identify the papers. State that the study is of a scientific character and there are no ulterior ends to be served. 

3.  Do not inform the subject of the purpose of the study. It is important that he does not grasp the contrast between public and private employment until he is dealing with the paired groups. A general statement indicating that this is a phase of a study connected with vocational guidance or employment may be used to put the subject off his guard. You should say as little as possible until all the in-formation has been secured. 

4.  Repeat orally the printed instructions before handing the subject the sheet, emphasizing the basis of selection, using such phrases as "In which position would you prefer your friends to see you?" "Which do you think has greater prestige?" or "In which would you prefer your son or daughter to engage?" 

5.  Insist upon a choice in each case even though the subject declares he has to guess or has no preference. 

6.  When all choices have been completed repeat orally one by one and indicate code answers to the questions on opinion of service. 


7.  Secure all the information called for in the personal information card, leaving rent until last, and making an estimate of rent where it seems preferable. 

8.  Finish each set of cards before you start with a new subject. 

9.  Number each set of cards with an identical serial number, attach them to each other by means of a clip, and sign each with your initials. 

10.     Turn in a daily report of interviews, together with the cards. 

11.     Be careful that there is no ambiguity or lack of clearness in notations made on any card. 

12.     Think about your work, and be free to offer suggestions. Whether accepted or not, they will be carefully considered. 

13.     Show uniform courtesy to all persons interviewed and secure from them where possible two or three other names of subjects. 

Comment on these instructions is unnecessary except in the case of instruction 5. In cases in which the subject showed that he could make no or little differentiation on the basis of relative prestige, he was not allowed to complete a schedule. In cases in which the subject checked all but one or two of the twenty pairs, he was urged to make a complete choice even though the difference seemed to him very slight. His ability to make a choice in most cases indicated that he had a certain pattern of judgment or feeling which presumably would carry through in even the doubtful cases.

The bulk of the interviewing was carried through by Professor James W. Errant, of the University of Oklahoma, a research assistant of the Local Community Research Committee for 1926-27. Mr. Errant gave this work two-thirds of his time for nine months and displayed great ingenuity and success in making field contacts. He collected approximately thirty-eight hundred completed schedules. During the Autumn Quarter of 1927 the work was carried on by four graduate students: Miss Mildred

(12) Sharp, Mr. Waldo Thorpe, Mr. Reuel Hemdahl, and Mr. Samuel J. Hocking. A few schedules were filled by an undergraduate class in state government. The writer filled something over two hundred schedules. In general, there-fore, the task of interviewing was performed almost exclusively by five graduate students at the University of Chicago, and of these one collected over three-fourths of all the schedules. The schedules were given preliminary examination either by Professor Errant or the author, and if superficially acceptable were given a file number. Later the various items were coded, and doubtful points which emerged were handled by the author. Finally, when Hollerith cards were punched, occasional errors were revealed and corrected.

At the outset the interviewer met each subject individually. Students from University classes were chosen for the first group in order to test out the schedule and to familiarize the interviewer with the schedules and the dangers to be avoided. Later, subjects were taken both individually and in small groups. Experimentation indicated that groups of ten up to twenty under controlled conditions could be handled without difficulty. Groups over twenty offered some trouble, as it became difficult to prevent communication; occasionally some confusion was caused by the putting of questions, rising, or inattention.

The author presented the schedule to a South Side business men's organization at which perhaps fifty men were present. The results were unsatisfactory, and most of the schedules were discarded. On the other hand, a group of women of about the same size gave fairly good results. In general, our experience showed that while the schedules can readily be given to groups, the maximum size of the group should not exceed twenty-five.



The second schedule was supplementary to the first, and was intended in part to check the general results secured from the main schedule, in part to secure information which had not been derived. A word association test formed the first part of the second schedule. A rating scale was also introduced, to secure an idea of the relative standing of the positions with each other. Finally, a completion test was devised to secure an expression of judgment on the relative efficiency, honesty, and courtesy of municipal employees. The same personal data was secured from the 690 persons who filled this schedule as from the 4,680 persons who handled the first schedule.

The form is reprinted on the following pages. It comprised a single folded sheet.


Please do not turn sheet until so instructed. Follow directions exactly.



INSTRUCTIONS: A list of words will be read one by one aloud. You are to write in the blank space the first word that you think of in connection with the given word. For example, if I read the word pencil you might think of paper or lead or pen or write

    1. 13.

    2. 14.

    3. 15.

    4. 16.

    5. 17.

    6. 18.

    7. 19.

    8. 20.

    9. 21.

    10.    22.

    11.    23.

    12.    24.


    25.    28.

    26.    29.

    27.    30.


On the following diagram you are to show your opinion of the prestige of twenty positions, all in the employ of the city of Chicago, by placing a cross (X) at any point on the line opposite each position. The left end of the line represents the highest prestige, the right end the lowest.

EXAMPLE :   Mayor   _______X_____________________________________________________

     Very high       Very low
Stenographer     _____________________________________________________________

Accountant   _____________________________________________________________

Janitor    _____________________________________________________________

Electrical Engineer _____________________________________________________________

Bureau Chief     _____________________________________________________________

Chauffeur     _____________________________________________________________

Policeman    _____________________________________________________________

Telephone Operator    _____________________________________________________________

Draftsman    _____________________________________________________________

Nurse     _____________________________________________________________

Watchman        _____________________________________________________________

File Clerk    _____________________________________________________________

Assistant City Engineer   _____________________________________________________________

Detective    _____________________________________________________________

Statistician        _____________________________________________________________

Machinist    _____________________________________________________________

Library Assistant   _____________________________________________________________

Junior Clerk     _____________________________________________________________

Chemist      _____________________________________________________________

Elevator Starter     _____________________________________________________________


On the following pages we are asking you to compare public and private employees in regard to the qualities of efficiency, honesty, and courtesy. There are nine statements for each quality. Please read these statements and check (√) that one which you feel best represents your personal opinion. Indicate the relative strength of your conviction on the scale at the bottom of the page.


Chicago city employees are : ( ) invariably far more efficient
( ) almost always much more efficient
( ) on the whole more efficient
( ) probably more efficient
( ) neither more nor less efficient 
( ) probably less efficient 
( ) on the whole less efficient
( ) almost always less efficient
( ) invariably far less efficient
than employees of private corporations.


Check (√) at some point on this line the degree of certainty of your judgment.

Uncertain                                 Positive

Chicago city employees are : ( ) invariably far more honest
( ) almost always much more honest
( ) on the whole more honest
( ) probably more honest
( ) neither more nor less honest
( ) probably less honest
( ) on the whole less honest
( ) almost always less honest
( ) invariably far less honest
than employees of private corporations.


Check (√) at some point on this line the degree of certainty of your judgment.

Uncertain      Positive


Chicago city employees are : ( ) invariably far more courteous
( ) almost always much more courteous
( ) on the whole more courteous 
( ) probably more courteous
( ) neither more nor less courteous
( ) probably less courteous  
( ) on the whole less courteous
( ) almost always less courteous   
( ) invariably far less courteous
than employees of private corporations.


Check (√) at some point on this line the degree of certainty of your judgment.

Uncertain      Positive

1.  Date  

2.  Sex (1. M.) (2. F.) (underline) 

3.  Color (1. W.) (2. C.) 

4.  Country of birth (1. U.S.), (2. Ir.), (3. Ger.-Aus.), (4. Norw.-Swed.), (5. Eng.), (6. Can.), (7. It.), (8. Pol.), (9. Rus.), (10. Cz.), (11. Ot. old), (12. Hung-Lith.-Ot. new). 

5.  Country of birth of father (1. U.S.), (2. Ir.), (3. Ger.-Aus.), (4. Norw.-Swed.), (5. Eng.), (6. Can.), (7. It.), (8. Pol.), (9. Rus.), (10. Cz.), (11. Ot. old), (12. Hung.-Lith.-Ot. new). 

6.  Place of birth (1. Urban) (2. Rural) 

7.  Age in years

8.  Occupation

9.  Years residence in Cook County  

10.     Years in school 

The stimulus words and a specific description of the methods of giving the test, together with its results, are presented in chapter ix; the completion test is discussed in chapter ii.


The experiment was designed to sound the opinion of as varied types of Chicago's heterogeneous population as possible. We were not interested in student opinion alone, or even primarily, but desired to secure a representative sample of the vast range of Chicago residents. To this end a determined effort was made to get in touch with working people in all sorts of occupations, high and low, young and old, native and foreign born, rich and poor. We succeeded in securing 4,680 persons to make adequate responses to the first schedule, and 690 other persons to deal with the

(17) supplementary schedule. There was very little overlapping between the two groups, but both groups were heterogeneous and in general represented the same range of type. The largest single group of subjects comprise those engaged in commercial and business pursuits. We are under deep obligation to several large utilities and business houses of Chicago for permission to present the schedules to their employees. Students comprise a substantial proportion, but the study is distinctly not one of student opinion. Many schedules filled by students were secured from the "downtown" college whose constituency is drawn from young workingmen and women. It proved difficult to secure schedules from foreign-born women, who combined a native suspicion of the interviewer with a fear of revealing some fact which might imperil the security of their residence in America. On the other hand, it proved relatively easy to secure the co-operation of women's clubs and the League of Women Voters. There was much greater difficulty in achieving a balanced group of women than of men. With regard to both sexes it was impossible to get a fair sample of the Gold Coast, persons who probably have a very definite opinion on the subject, but who refuse to admit preferences for the position of city-hall janitor as compared with the janitor of the Wrigley Building!

The following paragraphs will state as briefly as possible the character of the sample of 4,680 persons who handled the first schedule. The second group of 690 will not be analyzed here; it will suffice to say that it was also a varied group with a somewhat larger proportion of women and a somewhat smaller proportion of students.

The distribution by sex showed 2,621 males (56 per cent) and 2,059 females (44 per cent).

The distribution by age appears in Table I, which shows

(18) a reasonably satisfactory range. The younger age groups were somewhat overemphasized, the older somewhat in-adequate in comparison with the general distribution of the Chicago population.

The educational groups show a concentration at the completion of high school but otherwise a fairly satisfactory distribution. The proportion of highly educated persons is too great and of poorly educated persons somewhat too small. The exact distribution appears in Table II.

Table 1, Distribution of 4680 persons by age

A summary of the occupational distribution (Table III) reveals an undue proportion of students, of whom it may be said however that some were night-school students who in fact were earning a livelihood. They were instructed to enter the occupation at which they made their living but did not always do so. A larger number of unskilled laborers would have been desirable, but this group finds difficulty in handling such an experiment as this.

One of the very significant bases of distinction is by race and nationality. We found that we had interviewed 2,341 persons native born with native father, 1,564 persons native born with foreign father, and 775 persons foreign born.

(19) The latter were divided as follows: Russians, Czechs, and Poles, 205; English, Irish, and Canadians, 194; German-

Table 2 (Distribution of 4680 persons by years of education) and Table 3 by occupation

German-Austrians, 160; Scandinavian, 82; Italian, 24; other foreign-born, 110.


We asked our subjects to indicate whether they were born in the country or in the city. This was left to their own opinion without attempting to follow the census line of distinction, as we believed the real difference was a psychological rather than a statistical one. The answers showed 1,313 persons who were born in the country, and 3,335 who were born in the city, with 32 who made no statement.

Table 4, Distribution of 4680 persons by Years' residence in Cook County

The sample may also be analyzed according to the years' residence in Cook County. Table IV indicates the distribution.

Finally, the sample may be analyzed according to the economic status of its members, as revealed by the payment for rent per room per month. For this purpose we excluded all the students and housewives, together with over two hundred who gave no satisfactory evidence on this point. The remainder were well divided among all five groups (see Table V).



A fundamental issue as to the validity of the present experiment concerns the character of the expressions of opinion recorded on the two schedules. Were they actually bona fide and accurate expressions of individual evaluations of the prestige of public employment in Chicago, or where they in reality something else ? Several considerations require to be dealt with.

Table 5, Distribution of 3042 persons by rent payment

1.  Was there deliberate misrepresentation by subjects, who for their own purposes concealed their real views? We have no reason to believe that such misrepresentation occurred, and we conceive no adequate reason why it should occur. The schedules were unsigned and confidential. The quest ions had no relation to any immediate concern and gave no hint of any desire for reform. Immigrant women frequently refused to handle the schedule entirely; but when the questions were answered, we believe they were honestly answered. 

2.  Were the schedules checked in a facetious or frivolous mood? Some younger people were amused by a few of the 

(22) questions but in general the attitude of the subjects was serious enough—in some cases too serious, for all sorts of special cases, exceptions, qualifications, and the like were produced. Some schedules were discarded for this reason. The presence of the name of the University of Chicago on the schedule and the business-like attitude of the chief interviewer were usually sufficient guaranties of a proper attitude toward the study.

3.  Were the questions objective? The paired occupations were so arranged that the city-hall position and the private position appeared first an equal number of times, and so far as could be ascertained there was no hint of bias on this schedule. On the second part of the first schedule there was some opinion that the form of the question gave a subtle lead against the city-hall job, by using such phrases as "more courteous attention," "Are city employees more competent?" and the like. The view was expressed that the question should have been phrased, "Are city employees as competent as employees of private corporations?" 

The writer does not personally feel the force of this view, but records it here for the guidance of any who may desire to repeat this experiment, The affirmative answer to the proposed alternative form merely signifies equality as between the two types of work, and leaves no opportunity for the subject to express a positive preference for the competence or courtesy of the city employees.

4.  Were the cases and questions adequate? The paired occupations and the series of questions could each have been greatly extended. There is a sharp limit, however, to the extent of interrogation which individuals will tolerate, and we believe that we came close to the limit. The present schedule also exhausts the possibilities of the single Hollerith punch card. 


Within the limits of the total number, opinions will vary as to the wisdom of the particular occupations and questions which we presented. They were selected with the city of Chicago alone in mind. The choices made by the 4,680 subjects revealed a considerable group of positions with regard to which opinion was substantially neutral, which might be reduced in later studies. Those questions with regard to which a large proportion were unable to give a positive answer should also be carefully scrutinized with a view to elimination in any further study. Other questions might be proposed as alternatives.

5.  To what extent were the choices of paired occupations governed by the specific private member of each pair? That is, were opinions substantially affected by the selection of the Western Electric Company as the pair for the city Department of Electricity; would the proportions of preference for the city job have been substantially different if the Commonwealth Edison Company or the Midwest Utilities Company had been proposed instead of the Western Electric? No evidence is at hand to answer this question, nor do we know whether the scale turned in favor of city work iii some cases or against it in others. The most that can be said is that given these twenty pairs, which were selected with as much care as possible to secure substantial parity, we arrived at certain results. 

6.  Were the instructions understood and followed? Particularly, did the subjects actually select on the basis of the relative esteem or prestige attaching to each position? Here again is a problem on which there is no conclusive evidence. Among the total number of 4,680 were 731 subjects who preferred without exception either all public or all private members of the paired occupations. Among the remainder many selected all public or private with only one 

(24) or two exceptions; many others chose the private member of the pairs except in the case of the professional positions. The character of these choices indicates prima facie that the subject entertained positive convictions, and the character of the answers to the fifteen questions indicates that their convictions were related to the bases on which prestige is won or lost. The reader can judge for himself the sufficiency of the written and oral instructions and explanations of the terms employed. The experiment states merely that 4,680 persons under the given conditions made the responses which are analyzed in the following chapters; from the consistency of the internal evidence and general agreement with observation one may assume, with what reservations one desires, that these expressions of opinion are indicative of attitudes toward public employment held by different categories of persons in Chicago.


  1. The Conditions of Municipal Employment in Chicago: A Study in Morale, Chicago, 1926.

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