The Changing Skill Content of Private Sector Union Coverage | ILR Review


Concurrent with the decline in private sector unionization over the past half century, there has been a shift in the type of work covered by unions. We take a skill-based approach to studying this shift. For both men and women, private sector unionized jobs have changed to require more non-routine, cognitive skills and for women, less routine/manual skills. Union, non-union skill differences have grown, with unionized jobs requiring relatively more non-routine cognitive skill and relatively more routine manual and routine cognitive skills. We decompose these changes into (1) changes in skills within an occupation, (2) changes in worker concentration across existing occupations, and (3) changes to the occupational mix from entry and exit. Most of the changes we document are driven by the second two forces. Finally, we discuss how this evidence can be reconciled with a model of skill-biased technological change that directly accounts for the institutional framework surrounding collective bargaining.

Industrial and Labor Relations Review (ILRR)
Samuel Dodini
Postdoctoral Fellow in Labor Economics

My broad research interests include empirical explorations of the economics of labor markets, incorporating insights from behavioral economics, occupational licensing, monopsony power, education, public finance, and urban economics.