Thursday, July 28, 2011

Falling Union Membership Connected To Wage Inequality

According to an IO9.com post,
a new study points to the drop in union numbers to explain the growing wage inequality over the last 35 years. From 1973 to 2007, wage inequality increased 40% among men and 50% among women, while at the same time union participation dropped from 34% to 8% for the former, and 16% to 6% for the latter.
The post anticipates a key argument.
At this juncture, it's very easy to start yelling about correlation and causation, but researchers Bruce Western of Harvard University and Jake Rosenfeld of University of Washington think they can actually drill down, and ascribe this change to a multitude of factors, including falling union membership. By analyzing differences within labor groups and between them, the researchers found that the union decline was linked to as much as a third of the wage inequality for men, and a fifth for women.
The post notes that major league sports leagues seem to be the only social institutions with successful or well-received unions.  This fact illustrates that unions do not necessarily reward mediocrity at the expense of greatness.  Baseball, football, and basketball superstars earn tremendous sums of money, but average players are still adequately compensated.  Contrast that with the rest of the current economic system that allows a few to become obscenely rich while the average worker has seen wages stagnate since the 1970s.

IO9 also reports,
The paper will be published in the American Sociological Review in August, at which point you'll be able to find it here. Until then, there are a few more details here.
By the way, why do I read about studies like this on a site that covers comic books, science fiction, and weird science, but not other media.

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