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Politics Matter: Changes in Unionization Rates in Rich Countries, 1960-2010

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  • John Schmitt
  • Alexandra Mitukiewicz

Abstract

Researchers have offered several explanations for the decline in unionization. Many emphasize that “globalization” and the technological advances embodied in the “new economy” have made unions obsolete. However, if the decline in unionization is the inevitable response to the twin forces of globalization and technology, then we would expect unionization rates to follow a similar path in countries subjected to roughly similar levels of globalization and technology. This paper looks union membership and coverage for 21 rich economies, including the United States, and finds over the last five decades a wide range of trends in union membership and collective bargaining. The national political environment, not globalization or technology, is the most important factor driving long-run changes in unionization rates in the United States.

Suggested Citation

  • John Schmitt & Alexandra Mitukiewicz, 2011. "Politics Matter: Changes in Unionization Rates in Rich Countries, 1960-2010," CEPR Reports and Issue Briefs 2011-24, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).
  • Handle: RePEc:epo:papers:2011-24
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2013. "Economics versus Politics: Pitfalls of Policy Advice," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(2), pages 173-192, Spring.
    2. repec:eee:quaeco:v:67:y:2018:i:c:p:326-333 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Töngür, Ünal & Elveren, Adem Yavuz, 2014. "Deunionization and pay inequality in OECD Countries: A panel Granger causality approach," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 417-425.
    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. J. Ryan Lamare, 2016. "Labor Unions and Political Mobilization: Diminishing Returns of Repetitious Contact," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(2), pages 346-374, April.
    6. repec:bla:indrel:v:48:y:2017:i:1:p:72-93 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. repec:bla:indres:v:56:y:2017:i:4:p:605-639 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    unions; unionization; globalization; technology;

    JEL classification:

    • E - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics
    • H - Public Economics
    • J - Labor and Demographic Economics
    • J5 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining
    • J58 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Public Policy
    • J8 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards
    • J88 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - Public Policy
    • P - Economic Systems
    • P1 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems

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