Considered together, recently released U.S. Census Bureau data for 2013 and comparable data for 2003 indicate that, as of last year, roughly 1.7 million people in their peak earnings years (ages 35-54) were missing in the 26 states that do not have Right to Work laws barring the exaction of compulsory union dues and fees as a condition of employment.
What exactly is meant here by “missing”?
Due to the “baby bust” that occurred during the 1970’s, there were just 84.2 million adults aged 35-54 in 2013, compared to 84.9 million a decade earlier. This decline occurred even as there was an increase of several million in foreign-born U.S. residents aged 35-54. (See the first and second links below, respectively, for 2013 and 2003 age-segregated state population data.)
The overall decline in 35-54-year-olds is clearly a significant impediment to economic growth because, according to a wide array of data, this is the age range when employees are most productive and, consequently, earn the most.
Not all states have been equally affected by the “baby bust.” Three New England states (Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont) suffered double-digit declines over the past decade in the number of residents in their peak earnings years. But the other eight bottom-ranking states (Alaska, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin) are geographically diverse. What they have most notably have in common is that, prior t0 2013, none had Right to Work laws on the books. Even today, among the 11 bottom-ranking states, only Michigan, whose Right to Work law took effect 16 months ago, prohibits compulsory unionism.
Meanwhile, nine states experienced increases of 3% or more in their populations aged 35-54. Every one of these states (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah) has a Right to Work law.
Overall, from 2003 to 2013, the number of 35-54-year-olds fell by roughly two million, or 4.1%, in the 26 states that lacked Right to Work states for the whole decade, while Right to Work states expressed a collective increase of 1.7 million, or 5.4%, in the same population group. Had forced-unionism states experienced only a decline equivalent to the national average of 0.8%, there would be 1.7 million more 35-54-year-olds residing in those states than is currently the case.
A forthcoming National Institute for Labor Relations Research fact sheet will examine in detail exactly why so many people in their peak earnings years are missing in forced-unionism states, and also discuss why the actual loss is even greater than 1.7 million if one tracks the location of people born between 1959 and 1978 as of 2013, rather than just the trend of the last decade.
It is worthwhile to consider various possible explanations for forced-unionism states’ working-aged population shortfall. But the fact is, this is not a terribly difficult mystery to unravel!