Considered together, age-grouped state population data for 2014 released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday and comparable data for 2004 show that, over the past decade, the total population of people in their peak-earning years (aged 35-54) for the 26 states that still lacked Right to Work protections for employees in 2014 fell from 48.35 million to 45.64 million. That represents a decline of a little over 2.7 million, or 5.6%. (Wisconsin became the 25th Right to Work state only this year.)
Meanwhile, the 22 states that had Right to Work laws on the books for the entire decade from 2004 to 2014 saw their aggregate peak earning-year population grow from 32.42 million to 33.86 million, or 4.5%.
(To locate the relevant data, use the two links below.)
The negative correlation between forced-unionism status and peak earning-year population growth is quite robust. Eleven geographically diverse states (Alaska, Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia) experienced losses of greater than 10% in their population aged 35-54 over the past 10 years. Not one of these states had a Right to Work law on the books prior to 2013, and only Michigan is Right to Work today.
Meanwhile, among the 10 states experiencing the greatest gains in peak earning-year population since 2004, nine (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Utah) have longstanding Right to Work laws. The sole exception is Colorado, and even the Centennial State prohibits forced union dues and fees in the public sector.
Nationwide, from 2004 to 2014, the number of 35-54 year-olds fell by 1.75 million. Had the decline in the 26 states that lacked Right to Work protections in 2014 been only as severe as the national average, they would have had roughly 1. 7 million more residents in their peak-earning years as of last year.
The obvious and correct explanation for the Census Bureau data is that breadwinners, along with their families, are moving in droves to Right to Work states. Working men and women find that they can provide better for their families in Right to Work states, with their generally higher 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 2014 the average disposable income per capita was nearly $2000 higher in Right to Work states than in forced-unionism states.
Union propagandists often grossly understate, or forget about altogether, regional cost-of-living differences when they are debating living standards in Right to Work vs. non-Right to Work states. What’s hardest of all for Big Labor to explain away is the fact that, when they have a choice, working-age people clearly prefer to live in Right to Work states.
- Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Selected Age Groups by Sex: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014
- Resident Population by Age and State: 2004 [Excel 28k]