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Study: Deunionization A Leading Factor Behind Increasing Income Inequality

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Deunionization in USDeunionization is worsening the income inequality gap, accounting for nearly a third and a fifth of wage inequality among men and women, respectively. According to a study by Bruce Western of Harvard University, data proves “the role of unions as an equalizing force in the labor market“:

“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. [...] 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).”

Even nonunion workers benefit from stronger unions as employers raise wages and increase employee benefits. The study also attributes the changing normative perception of pay equity to the decline of unions, arguing that “unions helped institutionalize norms of equity.”


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