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The Impact of Unionization on Establishment Closure: A Regression Discontinuity Analysis of Representation Elections


  • John DiNardo
  • David S. Lee


Using data on more than 27,000 establishments (1983-1999) in the United States, this paper produces estimates of the causal effect of unionization of employer closure by exploiting the fact that most employers become 'unionized' as a partial consequence of a secret ballot election among the workers. If employers where unions barely won the election (e.g. by one vote) are ex ante comparable in all other ways to employers where unions barely lost (by one vote), differences in their subsequent outcomes should represent the true impact of union recognition. The regression discontinuity analysis finds little or no union effect on short- and long-run employer survival rates over 1- to 18-year horizons. We thus conclude that evidence of large effects of unions would more likely be found 1) along the within-employer (intensive margin) of employment and/or 2) in analyses of union threat effects.

Suggested Citation

  • John DiNardo & David S. Lee, 2002. "The Impact of Unionization on Establishment Closure: A Regression Discontinuity Analysis of Representation Elections," NBER Working Papers 8993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8993
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    Cited by:

    1. Falch, Torberg & Strom, Bjarne, 2007. "Wage bargaining and monopsony," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 94(2), pages 202-207, February.
    2. Steven F. Koch & Jeffrey S. Racine, 2016. "Healthcare facility choice and user fee abolition: regression discontinuity in a multinomial choice setting," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 179(4), pages 927-950, October.
    3. Austin Nichols, 2007. "Causal inference with observational data," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 7(4), pages 507-541, December.
    4. David S. Lee & Alexandre Mas, 2012. "Long-Run Impacts of Unions on Firms: New Evidence from Financial Markets, 1961--1999," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 333-378.
    5. Christian Dustmann & Uta Schönberg, 2009. "Training and Union Wages," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(2), pages 363-376, May.
    6. Adams, Scott & Neumark, David, 2005. "The effects of living wage laws: Evidence from failed and derailed living wage campaigns," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 177-202, September.
    7. Ceyhun Elgin, 2012. "Unionization and informal economy," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 32(3), pages 2615-2623.
    8. David S. Lee & Alexandre Mas, 2009. "Long-Run Impacts of Unions on Firms: New Evidence from Financial Markets, 1961-1999," Working Papers 1117, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    9. John T. Addison, 2005. "THE DETERMINANTS OF FIRM PERFORMANCE: UNIONS, WORKS COUNCILS, AND EMPLOYEE INVOLVEMENT/HIGH-PERFORMANCE WORK PRACTICES," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 52(3), pages 406-450, July.
    10. Edgar Preugschat, 2009. "Unionization Patterns and Firm Reallocation," 2009 Meeting Papers 1114, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    11. Uwe Jirjahn, 2010. "Nonunion Worker Representation and the Closure of Establishments: German Evidence on the Role of Moderating Factors," Research Papers in Economics 2010-01, University of Trier, Department of Economics.
    12. Georgios Karras, 2006. "Foreign aid and long-run economic growth: empirical evidence for a panel of developing countries," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(1), pages 15-28.

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    JEL classification:

    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General
    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor

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