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A Reconsideration of the Effects of Unionism on Relative Wages and Employment in the United States, 1920-80

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  • John H. Pencavel
  • Catherine E. Hartsog

Abstract

H. Gregg Lewis' estimates of the relative wage effect of unionism between 1920 and 1958 are routinely cited though they have rarely been subject to scrutiny. This paper extends Lewis' data to 1980 and, in particular, we construct a series on union membership that links up with the data available in the 1970's from the Current Population Surveys. We proceed to reexamine the effects of trade unions both on relative wages and on relative man hours worked.Our estimates of the relative wage effect are similar to Lewis' though these are not measured with precision and a wide range of estimates are consistent with the results. With respect to the effect of unionism on relative man hours worked, we are not at all satisfied that the analysis of these data clearly points to the existence of a negative effect.

Suggested Citation

  • John H. Pencavel & Catherine E. Hartsog, 1984. "A Reconsideration of the Effects of Unionism on Relative Wages and Employment in the United States, 1920-80," NBER Working Papers 1316, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1316
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ashenfelter, Orley & Johnson, George E, 1972. "Unionism, Relative Wages, and Labor Quality in U.S. Manufacturing Industries," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 13(3), pages 488-508, October.
    2. Shoven, John B, 1976. "The Incidence and Efficiency Effects of Taxes on Income from Capital," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(6), pages 1261-1283, December.
    3. M. W. Reder, 1965. "Unions and Wages: The Problems of Measurement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 73, pages 188-188.
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    Cited by:

    1. Callaway, Brantly & Collins, William J., 2018. "Unions, workers, and wages at the peak of the American labor movement," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 95-118.

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