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Anticipation, Free-Rider Problems, and Adaptation to Trade Unions: Re-Examining the Curious Case of Dissatisfied Union Members


  • Nattavudh Powdthavee


The author studies the past, contemporaneous, and future effects of union membership on job satisfaction. Using eleven waves (5–15) of the British Household Panel Survey, he documents evidence rejecting the paradox of dissatisfied union members. By separating union “free-riders†from union-covered non-members in fixed-effects equations, he finds significant anticipation effects to unionism for both prospective and covered non-members of both genders. Workers go on to report, on average, a significant net increase in their overall job satisfaction in the year unionization occurs, although this decreases with time. Moreover, adaptation to unionism is complete within the first few years of unionization. One explanation for this is that workers adapt their reported satisfaction over time to support their union bargaining efforts, which would be consistent with at least one explanation given for a union's role in fanning the flames of discontent with management during contract negotiations. That is, members may not actually be as dissatisfied with their jobs as it appears.

Suggested Citation

  • Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2011. "Anticipation, Free-Rider Problems, and Adaptation to Trade Unions: Re-Examining the Curious Case of Dissatisfied Union Members," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 64(5), pages 1000-1019, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:ilrrev:v:64:y:2011:i:5:p:1000-1019

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bruce D. Meyer & Dan T. Rosenbaum, 2001. "Welfare, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Labor Supply of Single Mothers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(3), pages 1063-1114.
    2. Daniel Friedlander & David H. Greenberg & Philip K. Robins, 1997. "Evaluating Government Training Programs for the Economically Disadvantaged," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(4), pages 1809-1855, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Andrew E. Clark, 2015. "Adaptation and the Easterlin Paradox," PSE - Labex "OSE-Ouvrir la Science Economique" halshs-01112725, HAL.
    2. Alex Bryson & Michael White, 2016. "Unions and the economic basis of attitudes," Industrial Relations Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(4), pages 360-378, July.
    3. David W. Johnston & Wang-Sheng Lee, 2013. "Extra Status and Extra Stress: Are Promotions Good for Us?," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 66(1), pages 32-54, January.
    4. Alex Bryson & Michael White, 2016. "Not so dissatisfied after all? The impact of union coverage on job satisfaction," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(4), pages 898-919.
    5. Hanglberger, Dominik & Merz, Joachim, 2011. "Are Self-Employed Really Happier Than Employees? An Approach Modelling Adaptation and Anticipation Effects to Self-Employment and General Job Changes," IZA Discussion Papers 5629, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Dominik Hanglberger & Joachim Merz, 2015. "Does self-employment really raise job satisfaction? Adaptation and anticipation effects on self-employment and general job changes," Working Papers 385, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    7. Colin Peter Green & John Spencer Heywood & Parvinder Kler & Gareth Leeves, 2016. "Paradox lost," Working Papers 107134075, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.
    8. Christian Grund & Andreas Schmitt, 2013. "Works councils, wages and job satisfaction," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(3), pages 299-310, January.
    9. Ong, Qiyan & Theseira, Walter, 2016. "Does choosing jobs based on income risk lead to higher job satisfaction in the long run? Evidence from the natural experiment of German reunification," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 95-108.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J28 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Safety; Job Satisfaction; Related Public Policy
    • J5 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining


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