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Demography and the Marginal Propensity to Unionize Open Access

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Unions advocate for fair employee pay standards and workplace protection: unions can be regarded as a symptom of disequilibrium between the wages workers seek and the wage offered by an employer. Unions serve as powerful institutions for the alleviation of discriminatory workplace practices through the creation of a collective voice for disenfranchised communities. Although union membership offers advantages for workers from marginalized occupational and demographic communities, in the past years overall union membership as a percentage of the U.S. workforce has declined; namely, private sector union membership has declined significantly over time, while public sector union density has remained fairly constant (BLS, 2016). This analysis explores the interrelation between demographic and occupational characteristics and private sector union membership. Private sector union organizers are concerned with developing targeting strategies to reduce attrition rates and recoup membership losses. This paper acknowledges the positive contribution that unions provide to marginalized individuals; thus, the idea supporting this analysis is that considering member profiles and their role in an individual’s decision to unionize might benefit union organizers’ recruitment efforts. Positive, significant results would suggest union organizers target their recruitment efforts toward individuals that have a greater propensity to unionize given demographic and occupational profiles. Using 2013-2016 data taken from the Current Population Survey (CPS), this study investigates the marginal propensity to join a private sector union given personal profile characteristics. Time trends between demographic and occupational characteristic (levels) are first plotted using historical CPS data during the period 2000-2016. The historical trends reveal that union membership levels are highest for black men, individuals ages 45-64, and those in the transportation industry. To empirically test that these trends exist at the margin, a multidimensional logistic regression is employed to underscore the individual propensity to join (or not join) a private sector union. Demographic measures include race, sex, and age and are included first as explanatory variables, and occupational characteristics- occupation/industry- are added subsequently. Based on the observed CPS data trends, I hypothesize that the results of this analysis will be consistent with the historical level results of the data and confirm that there exists a significant, positive propensity to unionize for black men, individuals ages 45-64, and those in the transportation industry.

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