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A Biological Model of Unions

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  • Michael Kremer
  • Benjamin A. Olken

Abstract

This paper applies principles from evolutionary biology to the study of unions. We show that unions that implement the preferred wage and organizing policies of workers will be displaced in evolutionary competition by unions that either extract less from firms, allowing them to live longer, or spend more on union organizing, or both. This implies that unions with constitutional incumbency advantages that allow leaders to depart from members' preferences may have a selective advantage, allowing them to grow at the expense of unions lacking such provisions. Evidence from the history of American unions supports these predictions. (JEL A12, J51)

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.

Volume (Year): 1 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 150-75

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aejapp:v:1:y:2009:i:2:p:150-75

Note: DOI: 10.1257/app.1.2.150
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References

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  1. Richard B. Freeman & Morris M. Kleiner, 1999. "Do unions make enterprises insolvent?," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 52(4), pages 510-527, July.
  2. Kim B. Clark & Richard B. Freeman, 1979. "How Elastic is The Demand for Labor?," NBER Working Papers 0309, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Richard B. Freeman, 1997. "Spurts in Union Growth: Defining Moments and Social Processes," NBER Working Papers 6012, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. William T. Dickens & Jonathan S. Leonard, 1985. "Accounting for the decline in union membership, 1950รป1980," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 38(3), pages 323-334, April.
  5. Moene, K.O. & Wallerstein, M. & Hoel, M., 1992. "Bargaining Structure and Economic Performance," Memorandum 10/1992, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  6. Dunne, T. & Roberts, M.J. & Samuelson, L., 1988. "Pattenrs Of Firm Entry And Exit In U.S. Manufacturing Industries," Papers 1-88-2, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
  7. Robert C. Feenstra & James A. Markusen & Andrew K. Rose, 1998. "Undertstanding the Home Market Effect and the Gravity Equation: The Role of Differentiating Goods," NBER Working Papers 6804, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Caballero, R-J & Hammour, M-L, 1996. "The Macroeconomics of Specificity," Working papers 96-25, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  9. Barry T. Hirsch, 2004. "What Do Unions Do for Economic Performance?," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 25(3), pages 415-456, July.
  10. Benjamin F. Jones & Benjamin A. Olken, 2005. "Do Leaders Matter? National Leadership and Growth Since World War II," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(3), pages 835-864, August.
  11. Barry T. Hirsch & David A. MacPherson, 1993. "Union membership and coverage files from the Current Population Surveys: Note," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 46(3), pages 574-578, April.
  12. Paula B. Voos, 1983. "Union organizing: Costs and benefits," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 36(4), pages 576-591, July.
  13. Michael D. Bordo & Claudia Goldin & Eugene N. White, 1998. "The Defining Moment: The Great Depression and the American Economy in the Twentieth Century," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bord98-1.
  14. David Card & Craig A. Olson, 1992. "Bargaining Power, Strike Durations, and Wage Outcomes: An Analysis of Strikes in the 1880s," Working Papers 674, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  15. William T. Dickens & Jonathan S. Leonard, 1984. "Accounting For The Decline in Union Membership," NBER Working Papers 1275, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Thomas J. Holmes, 2006. "Geographic spillover of unionism," Staff Report 368, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

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