Low-income children rise higher in the income rankings when they grow up in areas with high-union membership.As unions in this country continue to come under assault, a new study coming out of Harvard, Wellesley (of all places) and the Center for American Progress, finds that unions are key in enabling children from low-income families to escape poverty.
The study shows that unions are needed to push the political system to deliver policies — like a higher minimum wage and greater spending on schools and other government programs — that broadly benefit workers and their families. 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. This is especially true when you compare them with cities in so-called "right to work" states like North Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi.
Most interesting finding for me... Higher rates of unionization may give rise to certain norms that instill a greater sense of agency in workers.
For example, people who belong to unions are generally aware that they have certain rights in the workplace and are encouraged to speak up if they believe they’ve been mistreated. It’s the kind of norm that could leach out into a broader population — to both union members and their nonunion peers — if unions are sufficiently visible and active, which could in turn help boost economic mobility. -- From NYT story
The study also finds that daughters with a mother who belongs to a union may be more likely to work themselves, which means they’re more likely to have higher wages. Or, put differently, union membership is helping to change social norms.