Article

Unions Boost Economic Mobility in U.S. States

Increased union membership is associated with higher income mobility, greater upward mobility, and lower downward mobility.

Karen Wallace, right, and Meryleigh Brainerd, left, both teachers in Calaveras County, join in a candlelight vigil in front of the California State Capitol to express sympathy with union members in Wisconsin. The crowd was protesting Gov. Scott Walker's (R-WI) attempt to strip public employee union members of their right to collective bargaining. (AP/Robert Durell)
Karen Wallace, right, and Meryleigh Brainerd, left, both teachers in Calaveras County, join in a candlelight vigil in front of the California State Capitol to express sympathy with union members in Wisconsin. The crowd was protesting Gov. Scott Walker's (R-WI) attempt to strip public employee union members of their right to collective bargaining. (AP/Robert Durell)

Read the full issue brief (CAP Action)

Democrats and Republicans alike believe that mobility is a critical part of the American Dream. President Barack Obama says the “very heart of America” is that we tell our children “that in this country, even if you’re born with nothing, work hard and you can get into the middle class.” Similarly, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) echoes the views of conservatives when he points out that “upward mobility from the bottom is the crux of the American promise.”

But some U.S. states have more economic mobility than others. According to data from the Pew Center on the States, a handful of states—among them Maryland and New Jersey—do much better on a range of mobility measures than the national average, and are almost twice as mobile as some of the worst performing states such as Louisiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.

But what makes a state more or less mobile? Gov. Daniels and other conservatives may be interested to learn that strengthening labor unions—a group that they have often attacked—would help increase economic mobility.

Read the full issue brief (CAP Action)

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Authors

David Madland

Senior Fellow; Senior Adviser, American Worker Project

Nick Bunker

Research Associate

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