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Labor Unions and Unequal Representation

Becher, Michael and Stegmueller, Daniel (2019) Labor Unions and Unequal Representation. IAST working paper, n. 18-81, Toulouse

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While the tension between political equality and economic inequality is as old as democracy
itself, a recent wave of scholarship has highlighted its acute relevance for democracy in America
today. In contrast to the view that legislative responsiveness favoring the auent is near to
inevitable when income inequality is high, we argue that organized labor can be an eective
source of political equality in the US House of Representatives. Our novel dataset combines
income-specic estimates of constituency preferences based on 223,000 survey respondents
matched to 27 roll-call votes with a measure of district-level union strength drawn from
administrative records. We nd that local unions signicantly dampen unequal responsiveness
to high incomes: a standard deviation increase in union membership increases legislative
responsiveness towards the poor by about 6 to 8 percentage points. We rule out alternative
explanations using district xed eects, interactive and exible controls accounting for policies
and institutions, as well as a novel instrumental variable for unionization based on history and
geography. We also show that the impact of unions operates via campaign contributions and
partisan selection. Our ndings underline calls to bring back organized labor into the analysis
of political representation.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Language: English
Date: July 2019
Place of Publication: Toulouse
Divisions: TSE-R (Toulouse)
Institution: Université Toulouse 1 Capitole
Site: UT1
Date Deposited: 15 May 2019 09:48
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2019 14:45
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