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Unionization and Wage Inequality: A Comparative Study of the U.S, the U.K., and Canada

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  • David Card
  • Thomas Lemieux
  • W. Craig Riddell

Abstract

This paper presents a comparative analysis of the link between unionization and wage inequality in the U.S., the U.K., and Canada. Our main motivation is to see whether unionization can account for differences and trends in wage inequality in industrialized countries. We focus on the U.S., the U.K., and Canada because the institutional arrangements governing unionization and collective bargaining are relatively similar in these three countries. The three countries also share large non-union sectors that can be used as a comparison group for the union sector. Using comparable micro data for the last two decades, we find that unions have remarkably similar qualitative impacts in all three countries. In particular, unions tend to systematically reduce wage inequality among men, but have little impact on wage inequality for women. We conclude that unionization helps explain a sizable share of cross-country differences in male wage inequality among the three countries. We also conclude that de-unionization explains a substantial part of the growth in male wage inequality in the U.K. and the U.S. since the early 1980s.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9473.

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Date of creation: Feb 2003
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9473

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  1. Barry T. Hirsch & Edward J. Schumacher, . "Unions, Wages, and Skills," Working Papers 9606, East Carolina University, Department of Economics.
  2. Richard B. Freeman, 1997. "Spurts in Union Growth: Defining Moments and Social Processes," NBER Working Papers 6012, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. David Card & Richard B. Freeman, 1993. "Small Differences That Matter: Labor Markets and Income Maintenance in Canada and the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number card93-1, October.
  4. Angrist, Joshua D. & Krueger, Alan B., 1999. "Empirical strategies in labor economics," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 23, pages 1277-1366 Elsevier.
  5. John Pencavel, 2003. "The Surprising Retreat of Union Britain," NBER Working Papers 9564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Richard B. Freeman, 1980. "Unionism and the Dispersion of Wages," NBER Working Papers 0248, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Machin, Stephen, 1997. "The decline of labour market institutions and the rise in wage inequality in Britain," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(3-5), pages 647-657, April.
  8. Richard B. Freeman, 1991. "How Much Has De-Unionisation Contributed to the Rise in Male Earnings Inequality?," NBER Working Papers 3826, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Amanda Gosling & Thomas Lemieux, 2001. "Labour Market Reforms and Changes in Wage Inequality in the United Kingdom and the United States," NBER Working Papers 8413, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Kevin M. Murphy & W. Craig Riddell & Paul M. Romer, 1998. "Wages, Skills, and Technology in the United States and Canada," NBER Working Papers 6638, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Lemieux, Thomas, 1998. "Estimating the Effects of Unions on Wage Inequality in a Panel Data Model with Comparative Advantage and Nonrandom Selection," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(2), pages 261-91, April.
  12. Peter Kuhn, . "Canada and the "OECD Hypothesis": Does Labour Market Inflexibility Explain Canada's High Level of Unemployment?," Canadian International Labour Network Working Papers 10, McMaster University.
  13. David Card & Thomas Lemieux & W. Craig Riddell, 2004. "Unions and Wage Inequality," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 25(4), pages 519-562, October.
  14. David Card & John E. DiNardo, 2002. "Skill-Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 733-783, October.
  15. Budd, J.W. & Na, I.G., 1994. "The Union Membership Wage Premium for Employees Covered by Collective Bargaining Agreements," Papers 94-09, Minnesota - Industrial Relations Center.
  16. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 1993. "Wage Dispersion, Returns to Skill, and Black-White Wage Differentials," Working Papers 691, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  17. Card, David, 1996. "The Effect of Unions on the Structure of Wages: A Longitudinal Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(4), pages 957-79, July.
  18. Barry T. Hirsch & David A. Macpherson, 2003. "Union Membership and Coverage Database from the Current Population Survey: Note," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 56(2), pages 349-354, January.
  19. Barry T. Hirsch & Edward J. Schumacher, 2004. "Match Bias in Wage Gap Estimates Due to Earnings Imputation," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(3), pages 689-722, July.
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