CEPR on Union Advantage for Black Workers

By Janelle Jones and John Schmitt
Since at least the early 1970s, and likely earlier, unionization rates for black workers have been higher than for other racial groups in the United States. As sociologists Jake Rosenfeld and Meredith Kleykamp (2012) have recently written, the labor movement has been “a remarkably inclusive institution vital for its economic support of African American men and women.” Nevertheless, the share of unionized black workers has been falling almost continuously since the early 1980s, reflecting a trend also seen in the workforce as a whole. In this report, we review the most recent data available to examine the impact of unionization on the wages and benefits paid to black workers. These data show that even after controlling for factors such as age and education level, unionization has a significant positive impact on black workers' wages and benefits.The union advantage is particularly strong for black workers with lower levels of formal education.
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