NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Economic Impacts of Unionization on Private Sector Employers: 1984-2001

John DiNardo, David S. Lee

NBER Working Paper No. 10598
Issued in July 2004
NBER Program(s):   LS

Economic impacts of unionization on employers are difficult to estimate in the absence of large, representative data on establishments with union status information. Estimates are also confounded by selection bias, because unions could organize at highly profitable enterprises that are more likely to grow and pay higher wages. Using multiple establishment-level data sets that represent establishments that faced organizing drives in the U.S. during 1984-1999, this paper uses a regression discontinuity design to estimate the impact of unionization on business survival, employment, output, productivity, and wages. Essentially, outcomes for employers where unions barely won the election (e.g. by one vote) are compared to those where the unions barely lost. The analysis finds small impacts on all outcomes that we examine; estimates for wages are close to zero. The evidence suggests that at least in recent decades the legal mandate that requires the employer to bargain with a certified union has had little economic impact on employers, because unions have been somewhat unsuccessful at securing significant wage gains.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w10598

Published: DiNardo, John and David S. Lee. “Economic Impacts of New Unionization on U.S. Private Sector Employers: 1984-2001." Quarterly Journal of Economics 119, 4 (2004): 1383-1442.

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