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




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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  • Alex Bryson & Rafael Gomez & Morley Gunderson & Noah Meltz, 2005. "Youth-Adult Differences in the Demand for Unionization: Are American, British, and Canadian Workers All That Different?," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 26(1), pages 155-167, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:tra:jlabre:v:26:y:2005:i:1:p:155-167

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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 419-436, November.
    2. Henry S. Farber, 1982. "The Determination of the Union Status of Workers," NBER Working Papers 1006, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Farber, Henry S., 1983. "The Determination of the Union Status of Workers," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 227, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    6. Gomez, Rafael & Gunderson, Morley & Meltz, Noah, 2001. "From 'playstations' to 'workstations': youth preferences for unionisation in Canada," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20100, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    7. H. S. Farber, 1982. "The Determination of the Union Status of Workers," Working papers 299, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    8. 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.
    9. Towers, Brian, 1997. "The Representation Gap: Change and Reform in the British and American Workplace," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198289463.
    10. Henry S. Farber, 2001. "Notes on the Economics of Labor Unions," Working Papers 831, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
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    Cited by:

    1. Michele Campolieti & Rafael Gomez & Morley Gunderson, 2013. "D oes N on-Union E mployee R epresentation A ct as a C omplement or S ubstitute to U nion V oice? E vidence from C anada and the U nited S tates," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52, pages 378-396, January.
    2. Helen Lam & Mark Harcourt, 2007. "A New Approach to Resolving the Right-to-work Ethical Dilemma," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 73(3), pages 231-243, July.
    3. Schnabel, Claus & Wagner, Joachim, 2005. "Determinants of Union Membership in 18 EU Countries : Evidence from Micro Data, 2002/03," Discussion Papers 31, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Chair of Labour and Regional Economics.
    4. Schnabel, Claus, 2012. "Union membership and density: Some (not so) stylized facts and challenges," Discussion Papers 81, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Chair of Labour and Regional Economics.
    5. Jonathan E. Booth & John W. Budd & Kristen M. Munday, 2010. "Never Say Never? Uncovering the Never-Unionized in the United States," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 48(1), pages 26-52, March.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J51 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Trade Unions: Objectives, Structure, and Effects


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