The Role of Labor Unions in Immigrant Integration


We examine if unions narrow or widen labor market gaps between natives and immigrants. We do so by combining rich Norwegian employer-employee matched register data with exogenous variation in union membership obtained through national government policies that differentially shifted the cost to workers to join a union. While union membership significantly improves the wages of natives, its positive effects diminish substantially for Western immigrants and disappear almost entirely for non-Western immigrants. The effect of unions on native wages, and the role of unions in augmenting the native-immigrant wage gap, is nonexistent in competitive labor markets while it is substantial in markets characterized by a high degree of labor concentration. This implies that unions act as a countervailing force to employer power in imperfect markets and can ameliorate the negative labor market effects of labor market concentration, but only for natives. Using unions as a means to empower workers and solve market failures caused by imperfect competition in the labor market, therefore, is likely to lead to a significant increase in societal inequality.

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.