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The Rise and Fall of Unions in the U.S

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  • Emin M. Dinlersoz
  • Jeremy Greenwood

Abstract

Union membership displayed a ∩-shaped pattern over the 20th century, while the distribution of income sketched a ∪. A model of unions is developed to analyze these phenomena. There is a distribution of firms in the economy. Firms hire capital, plus skilled and unskilled labor. Unionization is a costly process. A union decides how many firms to organize and its members' wage rate. Simulation of the developed model establishes that skilled-biased technological change, which affects the productivity of skilled labor relative to unskilled labor, can potentially explain the above facts. Statistical analysis suggests that skill-biased technological change is an important factor in de-unionization.

Suggested Citation

  • Emin M. Dinlersoz & Jeremy Greenwood, 2012. "The Rise and Fall of Unions in the U.S," NBER Working Papers 18079, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18079
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. The origin of de-unionization in the United States
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2012-06-04 19:09:00

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    Cited by:

    1. Florian Baumann & Tobias Brändle, 2015. "We Want them all Covered! Collective Bargaining and Firm Heterogeneity. Theory and Evidence from Germany," IAW Discussion Papers 114, Institut für Angewandte Wirtschaftsforschung (IAW).
    2. Emin Dinlersoz & Jeremy Greenwood & Henry Hyatt, 2014. "Who do Unions Target? Unionization over the Life-Cycle of U.S. Businesses," NBER Working Papers 20151, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Krusell, Per & Rudanko, Leena, 2016. "Unions in a frictional labor market," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(C), pages 35-50.
    4. Finn Martensen, 2014. "Routinization and the Decline of the U.S. Minimum Wage," Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics, University of Konstanz 2014-16, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz.
    5. Bridgman, Benjamin, 2015. "Competition, work rules and productivity," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 136-149.
    6. Emin Dinlersoz & Jeremy Greenwood & Henry Hyatt, 2017. "What Businesses Attract Unions? Unionization over the Life Cycle of U.S. Establishments," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 70(3), pages 733-766, May.
    7. Henry S. Farber & Daniel Herbst & ilyana Kuziemko & Suresh Naidu, 2018. "Unions and Inequality Over the Twentieth Century: New Evidence from Survey Data," Working Papers 620, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    8. Louis-Philippe Beland & Bulent Unel, 2015. "Democrats and Unions," Departmental Working Papers 2015-02, Department of Economics, Louisiana State University.
    9. Song, Yang & Yang, Jidong & Yang, Qijing, 2016. "Do firms' political connections depress the union wage effect? Evidence from China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 183-198.
    10. Simeon Alder & David Lagakos & Lee Ohanian, 2014. "Competitive Pressure and the Decline of the Rust Belt: A Macroeconomic Analysis," NBER Working Papers 20538, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Finn Martensen, 2014. "Opposite Effects of Competition and Rents on Collective Bargaining – Evidence from Germany," Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics, University of Konstanz 2014-15, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz.
    12. Brändle, Tobias & Baumann, Florian, 2013. "Union Bargaining and Intra-Industry Productivity Differentials: Theory and Evidence from Germany," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79852, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    13. repec:cen:wpaper:14-09 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Henry S. Farber & Daniel Herbst & Ilyana Kuziemko & Suresh Naidu, 2018. "Unions and Inequality Over the Twentieth Century: New Evidence from Survey Data," NBER Working Papers 24587, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J51 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Trade Unions: Objectives, Structure, and Effects
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms
    • L16 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Industrial Organization and Macroeconomics; Macroeconomic Industrial Structure
    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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