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Youth-Adult Differences in the Demand for Unionization: Are American, British, and Canadian Workers All That Different?

  • ALEX BRYSON
  • RAFAEL GOMEZ
  • MORLEY GUNDERSON
  • NOAH MELTZ

We examine demand for union membership amongst young and adult workers in Britain, Canada, and the United States. Using a model of representation advanced by Farber (1983, 2001) and Riddell (1993), we find that a majority of the union density differential between young and adult workers in all three countries is due to supply-side constraints rather than a lower desire for unionization by the young. This finding lends credence to two conjectures: first, tastes for collective representation do not differ substantially among workers (either by nationality or by age) and second, union representation can be fruitfully modeled as an experience-good. The experience-good properties of union membership explain the persistence of union density differentials (in this case between youth and adults) in the face of equal levels of desired representation.

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Article provided by Transaction Publishers in its journal Journal of Labor Research.

Volume (Year): 26 (2005)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 155-167

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Handle: RePEc:tra:jlabre:v:26:y:2005:i:1:p:155-167
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  1. W. Craig Riddell, 1993. "Unionization in Canada and the United States: A Tale of Two Countries," NBER Chapters, in: Small Differences That Matter: Labor Markets and Income Maintenance in Canada and the United States, pages 109-148 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Rafael Gomez & Seymour Martin Lipset & Noah Meltz, 2001. "Frustrated Demand for Unionisation: the Case of the United States and Canada Revisited," CEP Discussion Papers dp0492, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  3. Farber, Henry S, 1982. "The Determination of the Union Status of Workers," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 227, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  4. Stigler, George J & Becker, Gary S, 1977. "De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 76-90, March.
  5. Henry S. Farber, 2001. "Notes on the Economics of Labor Unions," Working Papers 831, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  6. Towers, Brian, 1997. "The Representation Gap: Change and Reform in the British and American Workplace," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198289463, March.
  7. Porter, Michael E, 1974. "Consumer Behavior, Retailer Power and Market Performance in Consumer Goods Industries," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 56(4), pages 419-36, November.
  8. Rafael Gomez & Morley Gunderson & Noah Meltz, 2001. "From Playstations to Workstations: Youth Preferences for Unionisation in Canada," CEP Discussion Papers dp0512, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  9. H. S. Farber, 1982. "The Determination of the Union Status of Workers," Working papers 299, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  10. Henry S. Farber, 1982. "The Determination of the Union Status of Workers," NBER Working Papers 1006, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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