Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Union decline accounts for much of the rise in wage inequality, study finds

Date:
July 26, 2011
Source:
American Sociological Association
Summary:
Union membership in America has declined significantly since the early 1970s, and that plunge explains approximately a fifth of the increase in hourly wage inequality among women and about a third among men, according to a new study.

Union membership in America has declined significantly since the early 1970s, and that plunge explains approximately a fifth of the increase in hourly wage inequality among women and about a third among men, according to a new study in the August issue of the American Sociological Review.

Related Articles


"Our study underscores the role of unions as an equalizing force in the labor market," said study author Bruce Western, a professor of sociology at Harvard University. "Most researchers studying wage inequality have focused on the effects of educational stratification -- pay differences based on level of education -- and have generally under-emphasized the impact of unions."

From 1973 to 2007, wage inequality in the private sector increased by more than 40 percent among men, and by about 50 percent among women. In their study, Western and co-author Jake Rosenfeld, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington, examine the effects of union decline on both between-group inequality and within-group inequality. Between-group compares people from different demographics and industries, while within-group looks at people from the same demographics and industries.

Focusing on full-time, private sector workers, Western and Rosenfeld find that deunionization -- the decline in the percentage of the labor force that is unionized -- and educational stratification each explain about 33 percent of the rise in within-group wage inequality among men. Among women, deunionization explains about 20 percent of the increase in wage inequality, whereas education explains more than 40 percent.

Part of the reason for this gender discrepancy is that men have experienced a much larger decline in private sector union membership -- from 34 percent in 1973 to 8 percent in 2007 -- than women (who went from 16 percent to 6 percent during the same period).

"For generations, unions were the core institution advocating for more equitable wage distribution," said Rosenfeld. "Today, when unions -- at least in the private sector -- have largely disappeared, that means that this voice for equity has faded dramatically. People now have very different ideas about what's acceptable in terms of pay distribution."

Interestingly, the study finds that union decline explains little of the rise in between-group inequality.

"Unions standardize wages so that people with similar characteristics -- if they're union members -- tend to have similar wages," Western said. "So, it makes sense that deunionization has little impact on between-group inequality, which, by definition, exists between groups of people that are different."

While the purpose of unions is to standardize wages for their members, Western and Rosenfeld find that even nonunion workers, if they're in highly unionized industries, tend to have fairly equal wages, partly because nonunion employers will raise wages to the union level to discourage unionization.

In terms of policy implications, Western and Rosenfeld think their study could help reignite the dialogue on labor unions, which they believe has disappeared from economic debates in recent years.

"In the early 1970s, unions were important for delivering middle class incomes to working class families, and they enlivened politics by speaking out against inequality," said Western. "These days, there just aren't big institutional actors who are making the case for greater economic equality in America."

The study relies on data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) from 1973 to 2007. A monthly survey conducted by the Bureau of Census, the CPS provides data from about 60,000 U.S. households representative of the U.S. population as a whole.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Sociological Association. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Sociological Association. "Union decline accounts for much of the rise in wage inequality, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110726092151.htm>.
American Sociological Association. (2011, July 26). Union decline accounts for much of the rise in wage inequality, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110726092151.htm
American Sociological Association. "Union decline accounts for much of the rise in wage inequality, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110726092151.htm (accessed January 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Science & Society News

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

The Toronto Star (Jan. 27, 2015) — Model schools are rethinking how they engage with the community to help enhance the lives of the students and their parents. Video provided by The Toronto Star
Powered by NewsLook.com
WikiLeaks Accuses Google of Handing Over Emails to US

WikiLeaks Accuses Google of Handing Over Emails to US

AFP (Jan. 27, 2015) — Whistleblowing site WikiLeaks accused Google of handing over the emails and electronic data of its senior staff to the US authorities without providing notification until almost three years later. Duration: 01:09 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Storm Slams New England, Spares Mid-Atlantic

Storm Slams New England, Spares Mid-Atlantic

AP (Jan. 27, 2015) — A howling blizzard with wind gusts over 70 mph heaped snow on Boston along with other stretches of lower New England and Long Island on Tuesday, but failed to live up to the hype in Philadelphia and New York City. (Jan. 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
First U.S.-Based Bitcoin Exchange Goes Live

First U.S.-Based Bitcoin Exchange Goes Live

Newsy (Jan. 26, 2015) — Known as Coinbase, the startup exchange debuted Monday morning, initially causing a spike in bitcoin’s value. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins