As unions go, population goes the other way?

Posted by: Phineas on January 25, 2011 at 2:01 pm

**Posted by Phineas

Writing in the Washington Examiner, Michael Barone mines data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and notes an interesting trend: in states with high union membership, the state’s population grows slowly or declines. The opposite is true in other states. Have a look at this graphic:

(Click for a larger version)

Barone refrains from speculating, but I think there are a couple of plausible observations one can make from this. First, the data indicates that people are reluctant to move to (or are fleeing from) states with mandatory union membership for workers, high taxes, and a regulatory environment that’s hostile to business. Not necessarily for themselves (except in the case of taxes), but because companies are moving to friendlier environments, such as the states in the lower half of the chart, and thus people are moving where the jobs are.

But what about California, which seems to buck the trend with double-digit population growth and one of the most anti-business climates in the nation? This is sheer guesswork on my part, but I think it is evidence of how powerful California has been both economically and as a magnet for people looking for a better life. Starting with the Gold Rush and then the first land boom in the 1880s, and especially after World War II, this state was “the place to be.” A great climate and beautiful scenery, a seemingly endless array of affordable new housing, an economy growing fast in almost any sector you could imagine… It’s no wonder that, by 2008, ours was the 9th-largest economy in the world.

And there you have your reason. It takes time to kill a giant, even though we have been doing our darnedest to do just that for the last 20 years, as has, in recent times, the federal government. Inertia is tough to overcome. (Newton’s first law apparently applies to states, too.) While other factors are at play besides unions and their attendant power, the grip public unions have over California’s finances is a major part of our problems. If we don’t solve them, expect to see that rate of population growth slow to single digits or even go negative in the next census.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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3 Responses to “As unions go, population goes the other way?”


  1. DF says:

    There is a reason that states with high union workforce numbers are losing population, its not always the unions driving people but the general political climate in those states that creates the problem. Increased expenses and less flexibility are always the result of union workforces, it may see like a good thing to union members until they lose jobs overseas. Just look at the condition of the economy in New York, California, Washington, and many of the other liberal enclaves that are so union friendly. I just hope we dont end up bailing any of them out when their political and budgetary systems finally collapse. ITs all a matter of time at this point.


  2. GW says:

    On a related note, you might be interested in this pictoral display of the decline of Detroit at the Guardian. It is a primer in the costs of decades of Democratic rule and their partnership with unions.

  3. Old Goat says:

    A thought I had when looking at that was the worst places to do business, and those states where businesses are moving out are the ones with high percentages of union workers.

    I can appreciate the role unions have held in the workforce. In a number of ways unions have helped even the workers who are not members. The trouble comes from the ever increasing demands and limitations that this creates. Most times it limits alternative methods of doing the business.

    I became more anti-union after seeing up close and personal how these thugs operate. They will eat their own for minor issues yet go to the wall for the absolute dregs within their ranks. It lowers the bar rather than raising it.

    NY is bogged down with nearly a quarter of workers belonging to a union. It is a state that is horrible in taxation, horrible for starting or maintaining a business, and is ultra liberal in a large part due to the unions. Unions by nature are group think organizations. They spread responsibility over the group so no one is ever responsible. Its benefits have been subsumed by the faults it brings to bear.