Many studies rely on public sector employees’ reported career intentions instead of measuring actual turnover, but research does not clearly document how these variables relate to one another. We develop and test three ways in which measures of employee intentions and turnover might relate to one another: (a) intention may measure the same underlying construct as turnover; (b) intention may be distinct from but strongly related to turnover; or (c) intentions may be distinct from turnover. Using nationally representative data on 102,970 public school teachers, we conduct a descriptive and regression analysis to probe how teachers’ turnover intentions are and are not associated with attrition. While there is some variation across measures of intent, we find evidence most consistent with the second scenario; intention is distinct from, but strongly related to, turnover. We offer recommendations for how researchers should use public sector employee intentions in research.
public sector employees, turnover intentions, teacher turnover, construct validity
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