Public vs Private Value: What is the difference?

Enhancing Rural Community Capacity March 18, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

The private value of any public service or program is defined as the value or benefit that comes directly to the participants of the service; there is a private gain or personal value received by the participant(s).

For example:

  • a family taking their preschool twins to a library’s story hour gains tips in how to read to young family members, improves the children's early reading skills, and the entire family may learn to love books and reading even more.   
  • a home-bound individual enrolled in a meal delivery program receives a nutritious meal which may result in improved health and the individual also benefits from the social interaction of having the volunteer stop by to drop off the meal.
  • a Master Gardener student learns how to plant, grow and harvest vegetables for their family's use

The public value of the same public service is the value of a program or service that is received by those who do not directly benefit from the program or to the community as a whole.

For example:

  • the family with preschool twins may be more confident in their literacy skills (again a private value) and may need less remedial services (a public value).
  • the community served by the meal delivery program may benefit from knowing that individuals in their community are being looked in on regularly and maintaining health and keeping individuals in their homes may be a public savings over having them placed in nursing facilities
  • the Master Gardener learning to grow and prepare food may improve their family's health, reduce medical expenses and lower their dependence on food assistance programs.


Franz. N. K., (2011). Advancing the public value movement: Sustaining Extension during tough times. Journal of Extension [On-line], 49(2) Article 2COM2. Available at:

Kalambokidis, L. (2004). Identifying the Public Value in Extension Programs. Journal of Extension [On line], 42(2) Article 2FEA1.Available at:


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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.