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Trade Unions, Market Concentration and Income Distribution in United States Manufacturing Industry


  • Henley, Andrew


The question of what effect if any trade unions have on the functional distribution of income is an old one. Conventional production theory suggests that the presence of a monopoly element on the supply side of a particular labour market may well raise wages but in the long run any factor substitution away from labour would have an ambiguous effect on the factor income distribution depending on the value of the elasticity of substitution. Distribution gains would only accrue to labour under conditions of inelastic factor substitutability (see, for example, Addison & Siebert 1979). A considerable body of econometric research (surveyed in King and regan 1976) has given general credence to the view that the elasticity of substitution between capital and labour, using cross sectional analysis, is equal to one across a large array of different industries. Adoption of this "stylised" fact leads to the conclusion that a rise in the price of labour would cause such a substitution from labour to capital as to leave the functional distribution unaffected. One might therefore conclude that trades unions can have little or no effect on income distribution.

Suggested Citation

  • Henley, Andrew, 1984. "Trade Unions, Market Concentration and Income Distribution in United States Manufacturing Industry," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 255, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:255

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Wilson, Charles A, 1979. "Anticipated Shocks and Exchange Rate Dynamics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(3), pages 639-647, June.
    2. Brock, William A., 1975. "A simple perfect foresight monetary model," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 133-150, April.
    3. Krugman, Paul, 1979. "A Model of Balance-of-Payments Crises," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 11(3), pages 311-325, August.
    4. Blanchard, Olivier Jean & Kahn, Charles M, 1980. "The Solution of Linear Difference Models under Rational Expectations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(5), pages 1305-1311, July.
    5. Dornbusch, Rudiger & Fischer, Stanley, 1980. "Exchange Rates and the Current Account," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(5), pages 960-971, December.
    6. Dornbusch, Rudiger, 1976. "Expectations and Exchange Rate Dynamics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(6), pages 1161-1176, December.
    7. Flood, Robert P & Garber, Peter M, 1980. "Market Fundamentals versus Price-Level Bubbles: The First Tests," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(4), pages 745-770, August.
    8. Olivier Jean Blanchard, 1980. "The Monetary Mechanism in the Light of Rational Expectations," NBER Chapters,in: Rational Expectations and Economic Policy, pages 75-116 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Andrew T. Young & Hernando Zuleta, 2016. "Golden Rules of Wages," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 83(1), pages 253-270, July.
    2. Hernando Zuleta & Andrew T. Young, 2011. "Do Unions Increase Labor’s Shares? Evidence from US Industry-Level Data," Working Papers 10-06, Department of Economics, West Virginia University.
    3. Cowling, K., 1990. "Monopoly Capitalism Revisited," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 365, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    4. Amitava Dutt & Anindya Sen, 1997. "Union bargaining power, employment, and output in a model of monopolistic competition with wage bargaining," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 65(1), pages 1-17, February.
    5. Bae-Geun Kim, 2016. "Explaining movements of the labor share in the Korean economy: factor substitution, markups and bargaining power," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 14(3), pages 327-352, September.
    6. Dögüs, Ilhan, 2017. "Rising wage dispersion between white-collar and blue-collar workers and market concentration: The case of the USA, 1966-2011," Discussion Papers 62, University of Hamburg, Centre for Economic and Sociological Studies (CESS/ZÖSS).

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