Right to Work Laws Benefit Employees of Diverse Educational Backgrounds

Although overall interstate migration has slowed considerably in recent years, U.S. Census Bureau (BOC) data show the vast net movement of Americans out of Big Labor-dominated states and into states with Right to Work protections for employees continues and may even have begun to accelerate again since 2010.

Looked at together, just-released statistics from the BOC’s American Community Survey and parallel BOC data collected roughly a decade ago offer a clearer picture of who the out-migrants from forced-unionism states are.  Today we focus on educational attainment.

From 2002 to 2012, the total population, aged 25 and up, of the 22 states that had Right to Work laws on the books throughout the decade increased by nearly nine percentage points more than the total population for the 27 states that remained under forced unionism for the entire period.  (Indiana, which switched to Right to Work in 2012, is excluded from this analysis.  Since Michigan’s new Right to Work law did not take effect until this spring, it is counted as forced-unionism here.)

BOC data indicate there was significant net migration to Right to Work states by adults with a bachelor’s degree or more education, by adults with at least a high school diploma, but no bachelor’s degree, and by adults with less than a high school education.  But the extent of the net movement varied sharply among these three groups.

Across the U.S., the total number of adults with a high school diploma and no college, or with some college education, but no four-year degree, grew by roughly 11% from 2002 to 2012.  But Right to Work states’ aggregate increase of 19.4% was more than triple the 6.2% increase for forced-unionism states. Right to Work states’ population growth advantage for adults with at least a bachelor’s degree education was significant, but far more modest.

In Right to Work states, the number of adults with a bachelor’s or post-graduate education grew by 25.7%, compared to 19.9% growth in forced-unionism states.  Finally, among adults without a high school diploma, net migration to Right to Work states was quite modest.  Overall, the number of adults with no high school degree grew by roughly three percentage points more in Right to Work states than in forced-unionism states from 2002 to 2012.

Economic observers who pay insufficient attention to migration patterns often praise forced-unionism states like California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts for the rapid growth in the share of their workforces that is college-educated.   What the data actually show is that all of these states have slower long-term growth in the number of college-educated adults than the Right to Work average.  Forced-unionism California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts are actually getting “smarter” as a result of their substantial net out-migration of employees without a college degree.

The cockamamie means by which California’s elected officials are attempting to make their state more prosperous recently inspired Hoover Institution fellow and commentator Victor Davis Hanson to label his state as the “epicenter of the new regressive progressive.”  (See the link below.)  But it is actually just one of a number of forced-unionism states that has, deliberately or not, become more and more inhospitable to workers with average skills.

Well over half the employees in the U.S. workforce today have at least a high school education, but no bachelor’s degree. Demographic data show states with Right to Work laws have superior records of creating opportunities for employees of all educational backgrounds, but especially for such “mid-skill” employees. Image: Brad Jensen/www.brainflash.com

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