population-bombCompulsory-Unionism States’ ‘Under 18’ Population Is on Track to Plummet by 2.16 Million From 2010 to 2020

By Stan Greer

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U.S. Census Bureau data covering the period from July 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013, the three most recent years now available, suggest that the population-growth advantage of Right to Work states over forced-unionism states continues to be widest among children aged 17 and younger.  Roughly since the beginning of the new millennium, forced-unionism states’ total population aged 17 and under has actually been falling.  And the rate of the decline has greatly accelerated over the past three years.

Twenty-eight states lacked Right to Work laws throughout the entire decade that began on April 1, 2000.  Decennial census data show that over the next 10 years these states saw their aggregate “under 18” population fall from 44.323 million to 43.364 million.  That amounts to a 2.2% decline.[1]

Meanwhile, in the 22 states that had Right to Work laws on the books as of 2010, the total “under 18” population grew by 2.854 million, or 10.2%.

Due to a combination of factors, including reduced immigration from abroad and a decline in the national birth rate since the Great Recession of 2008-2009, the total juvenile population of the U.S. is now declining, rather than rising more slowly than the population as a whole, as it did from 2000 to 2010.  However, the number of children living in Right to Work states continued to rise over the past three years, albeit more slowly than before.  Meanwhile, the “under 18” population of forced-unionism states fell far more rapidly than had been the case from 2000 to 2010.

Since 2010, two additional states have adopted Right to Work laws.  Indiana’s statute prohibiting forced union dues and fees took effect in February 2012, and Michigan’s in March 2013.

From July 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013, the number of residents aged 17 and under in the 26 remaining forced unionism states fell from 39.370 million to 38.721 million, or 1.6%.  If this decline persists at the same pace over the next seven years, the total loss for the second decade of the millennium will be 2.16 million, or 5.5%.[2]  In contrast, in Right to Work states over the past three years, the number of juveniles increased by 214,000, or 0.7%.  (Since Indiana and Michigan both changed from forced-unionism to Right to Work during the period in question, they are excluded from this analysis.)

‘Lifestyle’ Preferences Can’t Account For Out-Migration From Forced-Unionism States

The positive correlation between Right to Work status and juvenile population gains is quite robust.  From July 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013, the seven top-ranking states for growth (Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming) all have Right to Work laws.  Meanwhile, not one of the eight bottom-ranking states (Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont) protects employees’ Right to Work.

Big Labor apologists sometimes claim that the massive net migration of people of all ages out of forced-unionism states is due primarily to “lifestyle” factors.  For example, two years ago an analysis by the pro-forced unionism Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) claimed that people are flocking to Right to Work states like Texas, South Dakota and Wyoming due to factors like “lower population density,” “more accessible suburbs,” and “warmer weather.”  State differences in the availability of family-supporting jobs, the ITEP strongly implied, had nothing to do with domestic migration.[3]

Unfortunately for union officials, such excuses are not borne out by survey data.  For example, a scientific poll of people making out-of-state moves by the Pew Research Center found that a locality’s job and business environment is more important than anything else, including weather and access to “recreational and outdoor activities,” in making a place attractive for domestic migrants.[4]

Moreover, if the desire for warmer weather and wide open spaces were the key factor behind the net migration of Americans from forced-unionism to Right to Work states, one would expect people of retirement or near-retirement age to be leading the charge, rather than parents and prospective parents.

In reality, Right to Work states’ 2.3 percentage-point advantage in “under 18” population growth from 2010 to 2013 is substantially greater than Right to Work states’ 1.4 percentage point edge in “18 and over” population growth.

International immigration trends can’t account for the discrepancy, either.  In fact, forced-unionism states like California, New Mexico, Illinois, New York and New Jersey saw their total juvenile populations decline over the past three years despite taking in large numbers, relative to most other states, of immigrant young adults and children.

The only plausible explanation for the data cited above is that young adults with children, as well as those who expect to have children soon, are much more apt to move out of forced-unionism states and into Right to Work states than vice versa.  Unfortunately, demographers have not up to now tried to ascertain scientifically why this is so.

But it is reasonable to guess the most important factor is that Right to Work states offer employees of all educational backgrounds jobs that enable them to provider better living standards for their families, when regional differences in cost of living are taken into consideration.[5]

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Stan Greer is the National Institute for Labor Relations Research’s senior research associate.  Nothing here is to be construed as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before Congress or any state legislature.



[1] See Table 22 of the 2002 edition of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistical Abstract of the United States and “Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Selected Age Groups by Sex for the United States, States, Counties, and Puerto Rico Commonwealth and Municipios, April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012,” located in the American FactFinder section of the Census Bureau web site.

[2] See “Annual Estimates of the Resident Population,” in Footnote 1, and “Estimates of State Voting-Age Population: July 1, 2013, a January 2, 2014 Census Bureau release.  “Under 18” state populations for 2013 were derived by subtracting the voting-age (18 and over) population from the total population.

[3] “’High-Rate’ Income Tax States Are Outperforming No-Tax States,” February, 2012.  The ITEP is based in Washington, D.C.

[4] Paul Taylor, Rich Marin, D’Vera Cohn, Wendy Wang, “Who Moves? Who Stays Put? Where’s Home?”  December 2008, Washington, D.C.

[5] See Stan Greer, “Job, Income Data Indicate Right to Work Laws Are Economically Beneficial.”  National Institute for Labor Relations Research fact sheet, July 2013.

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