Study confirms what many suspected
Posted by on

The decline in union membership in America accounts for a lot of the rise in income inequality, according to a new study by Harvard sociology professor Bruce Western.

??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.