Do Unions Shape Political Ideologies at Work? (with Johannes Matzat)
Abstract: Labor unions’ greatest potential for political influence likely arises from their direct connection to millions of individuals at the workplace. There, they may change the ideological positions of both unionizing workers and their non-unionizing management. In this paper, we analyze the workplace-level impact of unionization on workers’ and managers’ political campaign contributions over the 1980-2016 period in the United States. To do so, we link establishment-level union election data with transaction-level campaign contributions to federal and local candidates. In a difference-in-differences design that we validate with regression discontinuity tests and a novel instrumental variables approach, we find that unionization leads to a leftward shift of campaign contributions. Unionization increases the support for Democrats relative to Republicans not only among workers but also among managers, which speaks against an increase in political cleavages between the two groups. We provide evidence that our results are not driven by compositional changes of the workforce and are weaker in states with Right-to-Work laws where unions can invest fewer resources in political activities.
Abstract: Job seekers’ misperceptions about the labor market can distort their decision-making and increase the risk of long-term unemployment. Our study establishes objective benchmarks for the subjective wage expectations of unemployed workers. This enables us to provide novel insights into the accuracy of job seekers’ wage expectations. First, especially workers with low objective earnings potential tend to display excessively optimistic beliefs about their future wages and anchor their wage expectations too strongly to their pre-unemployment wages. Second, among long-term unemployed workers, overoptimism remains persistent throughout the unemployment spell. Third, higher extrinsic incentives to search more intensively lead job seekers to hold more optimistic wage expectations, yet this does not translate into higher realized wages for them. Lastly, we document a connection between overoptimistic wage expectations and job seekers’ tendency to overestimate their reemployment chances. We discuss the role of information frictions and motivated beliefs as potential sources of job seekers’ optimism and the heterogeneity in their beliefs.