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Cross-Generation Correlations of Union Status For Young People in Britain


  • Jo Blanden
  • Stephen Machin


In this paper we investigate whether young people whose fathers are union members are themselves more likely to join a union. The work builds upon a large social science literature on intergenerational mobility that, to ourknowledge, has not been applied to industrial relations questions. The paper asks questions and provides evidence from British longitudinal data on several issues to do with the cross-generation transmission of union status:i) We first calculate odds ratios, as often used in the literature on social mobility, to look at empirical connections between the union status of young people and their fathers. We calculate relative risk ratios that measure the relative chances that a child of a unionized father is unionized as compared to the relative chances of the child of a non-union father being unionized. This relative risk ratio is of the order of 2, showing that young people with unionized fathers are twice as likely to be unionized as those with non-union fathers. ii) The relative risk ratio is higher, at over 3, for young people with fathers who report themselves as being active in a union. To the extent that active in a union fathers are more likely to 'spread the word' about unions to their offspring, this higher relative risk ratio supports the idea that the socialization within the family during the formative years passes on positive knowledge about unions to children of unionized parents making them more likely to join a union. iii) The intergenerational correlation of union status has not reduced over time. Despite a widening of the union membership gap between older and younger workers, relative risk ratios calculated from early 1980s data are no larger than those from the 1990s. iv) The cross-generation correlation is not driven by common within-family characteristics (like occupation, industry and political persuasion) that are strongly related to union status in the data.

Suggested Citation

  • Jo Blanden & Stephen Machin, 2002. "Cross-Generation Correlations of Union Status For Young People in Britain," CEP Discussion Papers dp0553, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0553

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Chevalier, Arnaud, 2002. "Just Like Daddy: The occupational choice of UK Graduates," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2002 47, Royal Economic Society.
    2. Nickell, Stephen & Redding, Stephen J. & Swaffield, Joanna K, 2001. "Educational Attainment, Labour Market Institutions and the Structure of Production," CEPR Discussion Papers 3068, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    5. 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.
    6. Duranton, Gilles, 2002. "City size distributions as a consequence of the growth process," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20065, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    7. Wiji Arulampalam & Alison L. Booth, 2000. "Union status of young men in Britain: a decade of change," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(3), pages 289-310.
    8. Farber, Henry S, 1983. "The Determination of the Union Status of Workers," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(5), pages 1417-1437, September.
    9. Rafael Gomez & Morley Gunderson & Noah Meltz, 2002. "Comparing Youth and Adult Desire for Unionization in Canada," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 40(3), pages 542-519, September.
    10. Stephen Machin, 2000. "Union Decline in Britain," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 38(4), pages 631-645, December.
    11. Green, Francis, 1990. "Trade Union Availability and Trade Union Membership in Britain," The Manchester School of Economic & Social Studies, University of Manchester, vol. 58(4), pages 378-394, December.
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    13. Card, David, 1996. "The Effect of Unions on the Structure of Wages: A Longitudinal Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(4), pages 957-979, July.
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    16. Andy Charlwood, 2002. "Why Do Non-union Employees Want to Unionize? Evidence from Britain," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 40(3), pages 463-491, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Andy Hodder, 2014. "Organising young workers in the Public and Commercial Services union," Industrial Relations Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(2), pages 153-168, March.
    2. Timothy Smeeding, 2013. "GINI DP 89: On the relationship between income inequality and intergenerational mobility," GINI Discussion Papers 89, AIAS, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies.
    3. Goerke, Laszlo & Pannenberg, Markus, 2011. "Trade union membership and dismissals," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(6), pages 810-821.
    4. Ayhan Gormus, 2017. "Non-Unionized Workers In British Green Sectors: Evidence From The Labor Force Survey," Eurasian Journal of Economics and Finance, Eurasian Publications, vol. 5(1), pages 1-15.
    5. A Charlwood, 2003. "The Anatomy of Union Decline in Britain: 1990-1998," CEP Discussion Papers dp0601, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    6. 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.
    7. Andrew CLARK & Emanuela D'ANGELO, 2010. "Upward Social Mobility, Well-being and;Political Preferences: Evidence from the;BHPS," Working Papers 338, Universita' Politecnica delle Marche (I), Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche e Sociali.
    8. Blanchflower, David G., 2006. "A Cross-Country Study of Union Membership," IZA Discussion Papers 2016, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Daniele Checchi & Jelle Visser & Herman G. van de Werfhorst, 2010. "Inequality and Union Membership: The Influence of Relative Earnings and Inequality Attitudes," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 48(1), pages 84-108, March.

    More about this item


    young people; union member; union at work; relative risk ratio; intergenerational links;

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J51 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Trade Unions: Objectives, Structure, and Effects
    • C25 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Discrete Regression and Qualitative Choice Models; Discrete Regressors; Proportions; Probabilities
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion


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