The Long-run Effects of Teacher Collective Bargaining

By Michael Lovenheim and Alexander Willén:

Teacher collective bargaining is a highly debated feature of the education system in the US. This paper presents the first analysis of the effect of teacher collective bargaining laws on long-run labor market and educational attainment outcomes, exploiting the timing of passage of duty-tobargain laws across cohorts within states and across states over time. Using American Community Survey data linked to each respondent’s state of birth, we examine labor market outcomes and educational attainment for 35-49 year olds, separately by gender. We find robust evidence that exposure to teacher collective bargaining laws worsens the future labor market outcomes of men: in the first 10 years after passage of a duty-to-bargain law, male earnings decline by $2,134 (or 3.93%) per year and hours worked decrease by 0.42 hours per week. The earnings estimates for men indicate that teacher collective bargaining reduces earnings by $213.8 billion in the US annually. We also find evidence of lower male employment rates, which is driven by lower labor force participation. Exposure to collective bargaining laws leads to reductions in the skill levels of the occupations into which male workers sort as well. Effects are largest among black and Hispanic men. Estimates among women are often confounded by secular trend variation, though we do find suggestive evidence of negative impacts among nonwhite women. Using data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we demonstrate that collective bargaining laws lead to reductions in measured non-cognitive skills among young men.

Here is the NBER link, via Matt Yglesias.


> Using American Community Survey data linked to each respondent’s state of birth, we examine labor market outcomes and educational attainment for 35-49 year olds, separately by gender.

> In the first 10 years after passage of a duty-to-bargain law, male earnings decline by $2,134 (or 3.93%) per year and hours worked decrease by 0.42 hours per week.

Perhaps I'm missing something here but how is collective bargaining among teachers of those 5-17 supposed to harm labor market outcomes of those 35-49 within 10 years?

Haven't looked at the paper, but the way this usually goes is that the researchers look at the exposure that people had when they were kids. So they are probably looking at whether those 35-49 year olds were in schools that were affected by bargaining laws (e.g. a 35-year-old in the sample would be affected by a bargaining law passed 20 years prior to the survey).

If I understand you correctly -- that this study suggest that collective bargaining of school teachers somehow lowers earnings of pupils when they enter the labor market, then --- THEN! -- I would suggest we look at the overall disappearance of collective bargaining in the overall US labor market -- you know, the other 160 million! -- now down to 6% in private employment (compare to something like 100% unionized firms in Germany I think) for the obvious (obvious to most people) cause of ever lower wages.

Yes, I find this unintuitive, also.

Higher incomes for women means lower incomes for men. Gender wars! Cowen's in.

Whoa, wait a second. Am I missing something, or are they assuming causation, when it might just be coincidental correlation? Tyler has used the complete abstract, so the paper is gated. Only $5, but still.
Regardless, sounds like a very basic logic flaw. Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

Agree. Schools changed during this period. Charters drew off some students from public education, leaving more challenging students behind. Did they control for student attributes and changing population mix.

"Charters drew off some students from public education leaving more challenging students behind." - Demonstrably false assertion. See: "Charter schools do not generally draw the top students away from traditional public schools." And in the New York system: " charter students, who are more likely to be poor
and nonwhite, score equally well in math as (though
worse in English than) students in traditional selective
schools. And when an apples-to-apples comparison is
made by comparing students only from similar racial
and socioeconomic backgrounds, charters shine more
brightly: they score better in math than, and just as
well in English as, traditional selective schools."

Your comment doesn't address the study data. But, your collection of materials merits consideration.

Also, Edgar, if you look at 7/13 post on this same subject, you will see direct, data driven, support for my assertion of sorting over time as the indicator. Look forward to seeing your comments on the 7/13 post.

Agree. Schools changed during this period.

"This period" being around 1950, when charter schools didn't even exist.

oops, A) typo, meant 1960, and B) was wrong anyway, as we're talking about the 1970s, when charter schools existed but had a trivial number of students

The correlation in question might be that states with collective bargaining rights tend to have generally weaker economies than states without them. I.e. Rust-belt north-east vs. South and West. States with teacher collective bargaining probably have higher taxes, more regulation and larger public sectors, which are generally a drag on the economy.

The coastal liberal elite States have weaker economies than the flyover Trump voting States?

Those non-treacher union States voted for Trump because they were tired of winning the higher wages for men that put them in higher income tax brackets paying much more in Federal income taxes than men in the liberal coastal elite States?

Have you been to upstate New York lately? The Coastal elite is pretty damn coastal. Anyway the labor-dominated mid-west and rust-belt only just recently started voting Red and only because Trump basically stole the Labor vote by promising them protectionist trade policy, crackdowns on immigration, and lots of infrastructure spending, like the lifelong hard-hat Democrat that he is.

"...the rust-belt only just recently started voting Red and only because Trump basically stole the Labor vote by promising them protectionist trade policy"

Both Michigan and Wisconsin elected Republican governors and legislative majorities many years before Trump ran for President. Unions still dominate the Democratic Party in Michigan, but the Dems haven't dominated Michigan politics for a long time (Reps have held the governorship and both houses of the legislature for most of the past 30 years, ever since John Engler knocked off Jim Blanchard in 1990) . And Indiana, of course, has been red for even longer.

Only GA, NC, SC, TX, and VA explicitly make collective bargaining illegal as of 2014. At least WI has been added since then but, it isn't widespread. So your theory seems unlikely. (

" higher taxes, more regulation and larger public sectors, which are generally a drag on the economy."

I suppose this is a religious belief so there isn't any empirical evidence which will change your mind, but it is pretty clearly not the case considering which states in the US are the wealthiest and which are the poorest.

At least, low taxes, low regulation, and small public sectors aren't some magic elixir for economic performance.

It takes a few decades for the effects of some of these policies to filter out, and of course there are confounding factors. The South was once solidly Democratic. The North was once solidly Republican. They flipped in the last 40 years.

"but it is pretty clearly not the case considering which states in the US are the wealthiest and which are the poorest."

This is about the comparative change in incomes during the time period.

For example in 2018, GA has a higher per capita income than MI does and VA has a higher per capita income that CA does. Neither of those were true 30 years ago.

Remember, we're talking about kids who were born about 50 years ago. Do you know off the top of your head what collective bargaining laws in a state were 40 years ago?

Agree, I wonder what is the theory that the authors are trying to test.

Recent studies (the Rand one paid for by the Gates foundation for instance) do not find any teacher impact on students, why would collective bargaining deteriorate student outcome ?

Parents have a child with teacher Smith. Their child is performing poorly, so the parents request a transfer to teacher Jones in the same grade level whose teaching style (real or perceived) is more conducive to their child (or perhaps Jones is actually a better teacher). The principal says, "Sorry, we can't do that. It is against union rules." Consequently, one conceivable method for improving individual performance has been shut down. This point hinges, of course, on the unstated assumption that there isn't a swap between students such that it is zero sum: Johnny gains at Jill's expense. But there are conceivably cases where both Johnny and Jill will benefit from the swap of teachers. Alternatively, Johnny moves to Jone's class and no child switches to Smith. It's possible that Johnny and the other students in Jone's class can benefit on net AND Smith's class benefits on net.

More generally, collective bargaining typically raises wages by restricting labor supply (or vice versa). The result is more students per teacher and a concomitant loss of teaching quality.

The paper seems to suggest that boys are more adversely affected by this than girls. It would be interesting to determine why. Apparently boys need lower Student-Teacher ratios. Innate male aggression requires increased monitoring?

So, in the States where teachers and parents have been marching and shutting down schools because budgets have been slashed so much due to labor/workers having no power to negotiate,

Parents get to switch their kids between substitute teachers freely, or between teachers based on how much money each teacher spends of their own money or by fund raising to more effectively teach kids?

Maybe non-union teachers get students needing more help learning subjects to drop out? Then they get involved in crime and end up in prison or dead creating a scarcity of men leading to higher market prices for men by middle age?

One reason given by well off women for having children without a partner/marriage is a scarcity of good men with jobs with good incomes.

Collective bargaining puts teachers' interests in conflict with students interests in myriad ways. That's sort of the point of it - to protect the teacher's interests from the vagarities of the "market". The market, in this case, being the demands of the parents and school administrators. I have a hard time thinking of any instances in which collective bargaining works in the interests of the consumer.

You are correct. It is not a usual result.

But then why the differential impact between men and women? Setting aside local political environment (the study controls for state environment), perhaps boys need more individualized teacher attention that they lose with CB.

I admit I have not read the full paper, but the abstract says the biggest effect is on black and Hispanic men, and there may be effects on non-white women as well, so the differential effect may be white/minority, not male/female. There are caveats given that it's hard to see effects on women. I would not be surprised if collective bargaining impacted minorities more than whites, because they live in the poorest districts where resources are more scarce so any resources given to teachers salaries and benefits are more likely to negatively impact students in the form of increased class sizes, and reduced extracurricular activities and arts and technical classes like shop classes. (That actually may explain a negative effect on men - cutting out shop classes to pay for teacher's pensions)

"I have a hard time thinking of any instances in which collective bargaining works in the interests of the consumer."

But since, weirdly enough, consumers have to somehow acquire the resources for their consumption it might be that collective bargaining works in their interest in their role as workers. Which quite possibly outweighs the negative effect it might have on their interest as a consumer. Unless society restricts collective bargaining to a smaller group of people so those who would benefit themselves from collective bargaining are only experiencing the harm in their role as consumers. Like, for example, in the USA. Where capital has done as much as possible to restrict collective bargaining to a small a group as they can and then ginned up resentment against those who do benefit from collective bargaining.

It is a small group of people who are consumers but not labor who would only be harmed by collective bargaining. Capital owners. And I think society has done pretty right by them over the last few decades.

I see. All those students should aspire to become public school teachers, so they can benefit from the collective bargaining laws despite the inferior education they are receiving.

Recall Spock's famous saying, "the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many"

Other research shows states with high level of teacher union members correlates closely with higher student student outcomes ... I am deeply suspicious of any “research” that denigrates unions ... remember: dictatorial regimes begin by forbidding unions ...

Gibberish. You're confusing necessary and sufficient conditions. Just because all/most dictators oppose unions does not imply that governments opposing unions are all/mostly dictatorial.

Dictators oppose ALL sources of power outside themselves, including and especially religion. How does that fare in your calculus and obvious implication for American politics?

'Dictators oppose ALL sources of power outside themselves, including and especially religion.'

So, how does Khomeini stack up on that list of dictators?

Or Franco?

When the dictator IS the religion, that is bonus points.

I'm not sure what your point is with Franco. Perhaps his close ties to the catholic church? As above, dictators who can control the religion get bonus points.

In ancient times, dictators ruled by divine right or even were gods. In post 17th century revolutionary dictatorships, established religions were the enemy of dictatorial goals.

Dictators destroy that which they cannot control. The precise outcome is country specific.

I predict a lot of feels in the comments for this one.

Eds comment about dictators distracts from the basic point that states with strong teachers unions consistently achieve better student outcomes than states with weak teachers unions.

Demonstrably false assertion. For one example, of many studies demonstrating that teachers unions degrade student performance, see "We provide remarkably strong evidence that students in states with strong teachers unions have lower proficiency rates than students in states with weak state-wide teacher unions."

edgar-- i could only read the abstract you refereed to, but I do not think it says what you think it says.

It compares large to small school districts and says the large districts have worse results. I take that to mean inner city schools do worse than suburban schools. It does not make state wide comparisons as you claim.

It's admittedly a prior, but I would expect that one of the effects of strong teachers unions would be to keep more of the worst performing teachers in the classrooms. I recall the articles on NYC "rubber rooms" for egregiously bad but non-fireable teachers from some years ago, and other stories that have occasionally made the news, where its just so hard to discharge a bad teacher that its seldom done.

I would further believe that the biggest impacts of teachers on student performance come from the best 10% and the worst 10% (that's true in a lot of other walks of life). I could see this having particularly bad effects on certain sets of students.

I'd be interested in any pointers to actual data on this, either pro or con.

So what you're saying is... we can safely pay all teachers minimum wage without fear of lowering student outcomes. Sounds good to me.

If teachers have no effect, that is useful information.

That's an interesting study, but the districts weren't firing bad teachers.

"Across the districts and CMOs for which data are available, about 1 percent of teachers were dismissed for poor performance in 2015–2016, the most recent year for which data are available."

1% dismissals is about the standard for Public school teachers and is far too low a number to address poor teaching performance.

One example - teachers unions succeeded in eliminating basic literacy as a condition of employment as a teacher because too many teachers flunked the exam:

The NYT’s story on this is interesting. They still didn’t get the numbers they wanted after dropping the test, so they gave a pass to some of those failing. They had a college degree after all, so they MUST be qualified, said the folks granting the degree.

Somehow I don’t think putting a semi-literate minority teacher up in front of a classroom of minority students is really going to help the minority’s students.

I think it’s rather a scandal that 99% of the applicants can’t pass the test. When it’s less than 50% ...

Somehow I don’t think putting a semi-literate minority teacher up in front of a classroom of minority students is really going to help the minority’s students.

It depends why the student isn't learning. Some students don't respect teachers from a different race. A great teacher will have no effect if the student decides not to care.

GASP - Higher (assuming collective bargaining results in higher salaries, etc.) teachers' salaries and benefits do not necessarily result in more favorable educational outcomes.

Who'd a thunk!

Regardless, my school taxes rise each year at a rate higher than the inflation rate.

Your school taxes do not rise faster than inflation.

I was going to type, "I can't believe you wrote that." But, I can.

Here goes, Swami. I am using a TI scientific calculator. I keep spread sheets which facilitate completing income taxes (you probably are unfamiliar). To wit, 2015 to 2016 - 5.4%; 2016 - 2017 - 3.9%; 2017 - 2018 - 6.46%.

I won't say where the money goes. You'd call me a fascist.

Income taxes are not school taxes.

Taxes are sweet to those that don't pay taxes.

I'd call you a fascist because you have hold beliefs in line with fascist thought and belief. I'd call you an idiot for making up stuff like "school taxes"

I now seriously pity Tyler. He has to deal with idiots such as you for a living.

It appears as of "fascist" is easier/quicker to type than "Nazi" and "racist."

I pay school taxes (billed/collected by the Town of Hempstead, NY government) twice a year.

Taxes are sweet to those that don't pay taxes.

Ask your mother if she pays taxes on the house with the basement in which you are typing in your jammies.

It was 1966 or 1967, and Mrs. Brown, our geometry teacher, explained why she had chosen to go on strike with the other teachers. She didn't have to explain to me, as some of my friends' parents were teachers, both parents, and they were poor. I mean poor. Small concrete block houses with no air conditioning. In the South. The life of teachers has improved since, in large part because of teachers' unions, but teachers still are not appreciated. Of course, I am referring to teachers in public schools, integrated public schools, which have less support today than during the segregated schools of my day. As for Mrs. Brown, she was a great teacher. And she was a black woman. One of two black teachers in my public high school. The other, Mrs. Parker, made an even greater impression on my life. Two wonderful human beings, who had the courage to challenge their students, challenge them in academics as well as in their attitudes about race.

Please do not read this if you do not like long comments. There, you have been notified! ---- (or if you like long comments but don't trust me to have anything worth saying, feel free to head on back to your old fat paperback version of Infinite jest or some such book, and read your daily portion of that instead) ....

Good comment. None of my high school teachers influenced my life much or at all, I admit, but it is pleasant to think back to those days, and to remember how good and decent so many of them were, even if every single one of them was too caught up in their own little world to spend even half an hour talking to poor unloved young little me in a way that I now would think of , as a mature adult human being, as heart to heart, man to man, human to human. They did not care much about me, I guess, but I don't care, they cared enough, and I remember them fondly in any event.

After all, that was what America was like back then - one went to school, and often met teachers (of several races, often: while my school had no Chinese or Asian teachers - although the best math teacher had been an intel officer back in the early 40s who had quickly learned Japanese and spent the war hopping from one little Pacific island to another, spending most of his time in radio-equipped intel shacks (I remember, Doug!) - sorry for the digression but now, decades later, I have lots and lots of friends who are of Asian ancestry - anyway, while my school had no teachers who were remotely Asian in ancestry, unless you include the one or two who had a 'Cherokee princess' somewhere in their possibly fake family tree, there were lots of just plain interesting guys and gals who I, although I may have seemed to them to be a boring person who had never worked a day in his life (I had,in fact, suffered greatly and had successfully hidden it - I knew that, but they did not, which is why I am so complacent and uncritical of their little airs of superiority) --- although not more than one or two or three or four of them (ok, at least four --- Mrs Smith, Mr Erath, Mr Maletta, and Miss Viola, who got married halfway through the year and changed her name - and I was happy for her) were not only kind and polite but also aware that they were talking to a fellow human being, with all that entails - although all that is true ---- well, I can imagine the rest of them, just as I can imagine everyone I have ever met, even the criminals whom I have so often tried to talk out of their criminality (trust me, true story): I can imagine the rest of them being, in a marginally better world, the wonderful human beings God meant them to be... one often met teachers who were simply wonderful people, I remember

(if you did not go to an American high school you might miss the fact that the extremely complicated sentence you just read, assuming you read this comment straight through, was a tribute to the type of sentence that is not easily construed, but which is still worth reading .... forget noun verb adjective object preposition, that sentence was what you hear when you hear English at its most liberated ... trust me , or alternatively, join the gang (it is now in the three figures - 100 or more) of people who like to tell me nobody gives a f**k about what I have to say, or who otherwise criticize my humble efforts to say true things. as if I would care, yesterday I realized I did not have the cancer that I though I might have, not that I am squeamish, but, like you, I am still just a mortal. I am therefore in a good mood tonight (I am just human and finding out that I did not have a quickly fatal cancer in a particularly sensitive part of the body, a part of the body where even the least squeamish of us, like me, really does not want the cut, burn and poison doctors of our day to get near to: finding out i did not have that form of cancer is the sort of thing that makes me feel in a good mood) and if you like, feel free to pray to your guardian angel, asking that wonderful creature to pray along with my guardian angel for whatever good purpose and good hope you want to pray for.

and you are welcome, God loves you more than God loves me -
(God wants friends too, friends who are not too demanding, I will leave out the obvious punch line)
remember that and pray for those you love, my guardian angel will help out too

The explicit and central purpose of a union under American labor law is to extract benefits for workers at the expense of the people who own the workplace. In an ordinary case, this is between two private groups, who should be allowed to negotiate out their own arrangements.

But in the case of public employee unions, the owners of the workplace are the general public. Thus the only case where a public employee union will not be a detriment to the general welfare is in a case where the union is failing to fulfill its explicit and central purpose, and therefore shortchanging its members.

Therefore, all public employee unions should be abolished, either because they are special interests successfully damaging the general welfare, or because they are failing their membership. It is inherently and automatically bad public policy to allow such unions to exist, and anyone who advocates for them reveals he is putting his own narrow interests ahead of good public policy.

Where is that explicitly stated, that it must be zero-sum?

Also, where does it say that people who choose to work in public education must surrender their right to negotiate for maximum compensation for their labor, simply because their employer is a public entity?

Here is a paper by those two guys with more details

"In this study, we present the first evidence on how laws that support teacher collective bargaining affect students’ employment and earnings in adulthood"

The authors’ findings fail to align with other metrics. Right-To-Work (R-T-W) states average 25% with bachelor’s degrees v. 32% in non- R-T-W states.

Can you explain a little bit more what you are saying about college degrees?

In Right-To-Work (R-T-W) states, an average of 25% of people 25 years of age and older have bachelor’s degrees v. 32% in non-R-T-W states.

None of the ten most innovative states are Right-To-Work states. Did innovation require more education or did more education create innovation? If innovation promotes the common good, more education has less demand in R-T-W states.

This must be why corporations love labor unions and do everything in their power to keep them going, because they reduce labor costs.

I find it entertaining (and by that I mean it makes my skin crawl) to find that often the same people who complain bitterly that teacher wages should be lower, also complain that teacher responsibilities should be greater, and then also complain about the low quality of the teaching labor pool.

It’s almost like they don’t understand how one attracts quality employees.

" the same people who complain bitterly that teacher wages should be lower,"

That's a pretty huge strawman argument you are attacking.

So where do you stand on these then?

Are teachers overpaid for their service? How can it be then that new applicants are also unable to pass basic literacy tests? Why don't these overpaid jobs attract applicants who can at least read?

oops thats a reply to jwatts

"Are teachers overpaid for their service? "

Most teachers are paid a fair wage for what they do. A small portion are vastly overpaid, because they are very poor performers. Generally speaking about 1% of teachers are fire per year and almost all of that is gross negligence. Very few teachers get fired for doing a generally poor job.

"How can it be then that new applicants are also unable to pass basic literacy tests? "

I work for an engineering firm. We get grossly unqualified applicants all the time. All good paying jobs attract unqualified applicants. I don't see how that's remotely relevant.

"Why don't these overpaid jobs attract applicants who can at least read?"

That's just a huge strawman argument. No one here is making the claim you are arguing against.

In fact some one is indeed talking about that higher up the threads

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