Labor Unions and Racial Wage Inequality


The stalling of convergence in racial wage inequality among men and the exacerbating Black-white wage gap among women coupled with higher de-unionization rates for Black people provokes an inquiry into the effects of labor unions on racial inequality. Exploiting variation from recent right-to-work legislation, I find evidence that laws that weaken unions increase Black-white wage inequality with the effects concentrated at the bottom of the wage distribution and among women. In addition to a baseline decrease in wages of over 3%, right-to-work laws lead to a disproportionate 3.88% decline in wages for Black women. These effects are largely driven by spillovers which are harshest around the twentieth centile of the wage distribution where the associated surplus union premium for Black women is the strongest.

Honours Thesis