Union propagandists often grossly understate, or “forget” about altogether, regional cost-of-living differences when they are debating living standards in Right to Work states vs. forced-unionism states. What’s hardest of all for Big Labor to explain away is that, when they have a choice, working-age people clearly prefer not to live in forced-unionism states.
Considered together, age-grouped state population data for 2016 released by the U.S. Census Bureau late last month and comparable data for 2006 show that, over the past decade, the total population of people in their peak-earning years (aged 35-54) for the 24 states that still lacked Right to Work protections for employees in 2016 fell from 46.36 million to 42.93 million. That represents a decline of roughly 3.5 million, or 7.4%. (Kentucky and Missouri became the 27th and 28th Right to Work states only this year. To locate the relevant data, use the two links below.)
Nationwide, the peak-earning population fell by 4.2% from 2006 to 2016, but in the 22 states that had Right to Work laws on the books for the entire decade there was no overall net decline at all. And the correlation between forced-unionism status and peak-earning-year population decline is quite robust.
Among the 46 states that were either Right to Work or forced-unionism for the whole period from 2006 to 2016, the 10 states experiencing the most severe peak-earning-year population losses in percentage terms (Alaska, Connecticut, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont) are all forced-unionism. Sixteen of the 18 bottom-ranking states are non-Right to Work. Had the decline in the 24 states that still lacked Right to Work protections in 2016 been only as severe as the national average, they would have had roughly 1.5 million more residents in their peak-earning years as of 2016.
The obvious and correct explanation for the Census Bureau data is that breadwinners, along with their families, are fleeing forced-unionism states in droves. Working men and women find again and again that they cannot provide as well for their families in such states as they can in Right to Work states, with their generally higher real incomes and lower living costs.
U.S. Commerce Department data, adjusted for regional differences in the cost of living with an index created by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, a state government agency, show that in 2016 the average disposable income per capita (weighting for state population differences) was more than $2400 higher in Right to Work states than in forced-unionism states.