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The Union Wage Premium in the US and the UK

  • David Blanchflower
  • Alex Bryson

This paper presents evidence of both counter-cyclical and secular decline in the union membership wage premiu m inthe US and the UK over the last couple of decades. The premium has fallen for most groups of workers, the mainexception being public sector workers in the US. By the beginning of the 21st Century the premium remainedsubstantial in the US but there was no premium for many workers in the UK. Industry, state and occupation-levelanalyses for the US identify upward as well as downward movement in the premium characterized by regression tothe mean. Using linked employer-employee data for Britain we show estimates of the membership premium tend tobe upwardly biased where rich employer data are absent and that OLS estimates are higher than those obtained withpropensity score matching.

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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp0612.

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Date of creation: Feb 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0612
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  1. Budd, J.W. & Na, I.G., 1994. "The Union Membership Wage Premium for Employees Covered by Collective Bargaining Agreements," Papers 94-09, Minnesota - Industrial Relations Center.
  2. Alison L. Booth & Mark L. Bryan, 2004. "The union membership wage-premium puzzle: Is there a free rider problem?," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 57(3), pages 402-421, April.
  3. Stewart, Mark B, 1986. "Collective Bargaining Arrangements Closed Shops and Relative Pay," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 273, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  4. Alex Bryson, 2004. "Unions And Employment Growth In British Workplaces During The 1990s: A Panel Analysis," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 51(4), pages 477-506, 09.
  5. James Heckman & Hidehiko Ichimura & Jeffrey Smith & Petra Todd, 1998. "Characterizing Selection Bias Using Experimental Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(5), pages 1017-1098, September.
  6. John M. Abowd & Francis Kramarz & David Margolis, 1999. "High Wage Workers and High Wage Firms," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00353892, HAL.
  7. Bernt Bratsberg & James F. Ragan Jr., 2002. "Changes in the Union Wage Premium by Industry," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 56(1), pages 65-83, October.
  8. Blanchflower, David G & Millward, Neil & Oswald, Andrew J, 1991. "Unionism and Employment Behaviour," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(407), pages 815-34, July.
  9. Edward J. Schumacher, 1999. "What Explains Wage Differences Between Union Members and Covered Nonmembers?," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 65(3), pages 493-512, January.
  10. Andrews, Martyn J. & Stewart, Mark B. & Swaffield, Joanna K. & Upward, Richard, 1998. "The estimation of union wage differentials and the impact of methodological choices," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(4), pages 449-474, December.
  11. Henry S. Farber, 2003. "Nonunion Wage Rates and the Threat of Unionization," Working Papers 112, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
  12. Shah, Anup R, 1984. "Job Attributes and the Size of the Union-Non-union Wage Differential," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 51(204), pages 437-46, November.
  13. Stewart, Mark B, 1995. "Union Wage Differentials in an Era of Declining Unionization," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 57(2), pages 143-66, May.
  14. David Blanchflower & Alex Bryson, 2002. "Changes over time in union relative wage effects in the UK and the US revisited," NBER Working Papers 9395, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. repec:oup:qjecon:v:111:y:1996:i:1:p:227-51 is not listed on IDEAS
  16. Henry S. Farber, 2003. "Non-union Wage Rates and the Threat of Unionization," Working Papers 851, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  17. David Metcalf & Kirstine Hansen & Andy Charlwood, 2001. "Unions and the Sword of Justice: Unions and Pay Systems, Pay Inequality, Pay Discrimination and Low Pay," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 176(1), pages 61-75, April.
  18. Colin Lawrence & Robert Z. Lawrence, 1985. "Manufacturing Wage Dispersion: An End Game Interpretation," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 16(1), pages 47-116.
  19. Hirsch, Barry & Schumacher, Edward J., 2003. "Match Bias in Wage Gap Estimates Due to Earnings Imputation," IZA Discussion Papers 783, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  20. Robert W. Staiger, 1988. "Organized Labor and the Scope of International Specialization," NBER Working Papers 2514, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. David G. Blanchflower & Alex Bryson, 2003. "What Effect do Unions Have on Wages Now and Would 'What Do Unions Do' Be Surprised?," NBER Working Papers 9973, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Heckman, James J. & Lalonde, Robert J. & Smith, Jeffrey A., 1999. "The economics and econometrics of active labor market programs," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 31, pages 1865-2097 Elsevier.
  23. Henry Farber, 2003. "Nonunion Wage Rates and the Threat of Unionization," NBER Working Papers 9705, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. David G. Blanchflower, 1997. "Changes Over Time in Union Relative Wage Effects in Great Britain and the United States," NBER Working Papers 6100, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Neil Millward & John Forth & Alex Bryson, 2001. "Who calls the tune at work? The impact of unions on jobs and pay," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 4996, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  26. Forth, John & Millward, Neil, 2002. "Union effects on pay levels in Britain," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 547-561, September.
  27. Darren Grant, 2001. "A Comparison of the Cyclical Behavior of Union and Nonunion Wages in the United States," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 36(1), pages 31-57.
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