Children in High Union Areas Do Better

Noam ScheiberIt is well established that unions provide benefits to workers — that they raise wages for their members (and even for nonmembers). They can help reduce inequality.

A new study suggests that unions may also help children move up the economic ladder.

Researchers at Harvard, Wellesley, and the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, released a paper Wednesday showing that children born to low-income families typically ascend to higher incomes in metropolitan areas where union membership is higher…

The authors posit a variety of reasons for why higher rates of unionization tend to coincide with greater mobility, beyond the effect on parents’ wages, which would seem to be the most obvious way unionization could matter.

Their most interesting explanation is that unions are effective at pushing the political system to deliver policies — like a higher minimum wage and greater spending on schools and other government programs — that broadly benefit workers. Perhaps not surprisingly, three cities that appear to reflect the union effect — San Francisco, Seattle and New York — are all jurisdictions where the minimum wage is rising substantially (though for New York it is only for workers in fast-food chains.).

—Noam Scheiber
How an Area’s Union Membership Can Predict Children’s Advancement

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