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Education

Study: Teacher Collective Bargaining Reduces Mens’ Earnings

Teachers rally over pay and education funding outside the state capitol in Oklahoma City, Okla., April 3, 2018. (Nick Oxford/Reuters)

The paper is out today via the National Bureau of Economic Research. I’m highly skeptical of the results — which imply not only that teachers have a powerful impact on kids’ outcomes, but also that unionization has a powerful impact on teaching quality — but the study is well-done and the findings are certainly striking.

The paper looks at what happened when states enacted “duty-to-bargain” (DTB) laws, which, as the name implies, require public employers to bargain with duly elected labor unions. These laws burst onto the scene starting in the 1960s and eventually covered 33 states; the study catches up with kids at ages 35 to 49, looking to see if those taught under DTB for greater amounts of time had better or worse outcomes than one would otherwise expect. It focuses on men because the labor market for women changed so dramatically in this time period that the authors’ statistical methods may not be reliable in that context.

The major findings:

At 10 years of DTB exposure, male annual earnings decline by $2,134.04 (or 3.93%) and weekly hours worked are reduced by 0.42 (or 1.09%). These individuals are also 1 percentage point less likely to be employed, are 0.8 of a percentage point less likely to be in the labor force, and sort into lower-skilled occupations. . . .

The negative effects of duty-to-bargain laws are particularly pronounced among black and Hispanic males: annual earnings decline by $3,246 (9.43%), hours worked per week decline by 0.72 (2.18%), the likelihood of being employed is 1.3 percentage points lower, and years of schooling and occupational skill are significantly lower at 10 years of exposure. Collective bargaining laws also lead to worse labor market outcomes among white and Asian men, but the effects are more modest in magnitude.

Interestingly, while DTB laws do seem to reduce educational attainment, they don’t do so enough to explain the entirety of the earnings drop. In addition, it seems, boys taught under DTB laws don’t develop their non-cognitive skills as well.

Again: Results this spectacular — “The teachers’ unions of your childhood could be costing you thousands of dollars a year!” — should be taken with a grain of salt. But the study is worth considering, especially in light of the blow that the Janus decision will likely deal to teachers’ unions.

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