Suresh Naidu, Unions and Inequality in Historical Perspective


855 Sherbrooke Street West | Montréal, QC, H3A 2T7 , Leacock 738, CA

Suresh Naidu, Associate Professor of Economics, Columbia University

Talk: Unions and Inequality in Historical Perspective

Despite a large literature on unions and inequality, virtually no representative microdata on union membership is available prior to the 1973 CPS. We bring a new source of data, harmonized Gallup polls (N >1000000), to look at the effects of unions on inequality during the heyday of union power, from 1937-1980. We document both substantial union household premiums as well as negative selection into unions throughout this period, as well as a robust negative correlation between unions and top income shares in a state-year panel, conditional on state and year fixed effects. We also show that union members were historically more likely to identify as Democrats and more likely to support redistribution, but are no more left-wing on civil rights or foreign policy.