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

  • Alex Bryson
  • Rafael Gomez
  • Morley Gunderson
  • Noah Meltz

This paper examines demand for union membership amongst young workers in Britain, Canada and the United States. The paper benchmarks youth demands for collective representation against those of adult workers and finds that a large and significant representation gap exists in all three countries. Using a model of representation advanced by Farber (1982) and Riddell (1993) we find that a majority of the union density differential between young and adult workers is due to supply-side constraints rather than a lower desire for unionisation on the part of the young. This finding lends credence to two conjectures made in the paper; the first is that tastes for collective representation do not differ among workers (either by nationality or by age) and second that union representation can be fruitfully modelled as an experience good. The experience good properties of union membership explain the persistence of union density differentials amongst youth and adults both over time and across countries.

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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp0515.

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Date of creation: Jan 2002
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0515
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

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  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 419-36, November.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  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. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Towers, Brian, 1997. "The Representation Gap: Change and Reform in the British and American Workplace," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198289463, March.
  8. Henry S. Farber, 1982. "The Determination of the Union Status of Workers," NBER Working Papers 1006, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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, 2001. "Notes on the Economics of Labor Unions," Working Papers 831, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
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