Skip to main content

CEP discussion paper

Youth-Adult Differences in the Demand for Unionisation: Are American, British, and Canadian Workers All That Different?


This paper examines demand for union membership amongst young workers in Britain, Canada and the United States. The paper benchmarks youth demands for collective representation against those of adult workers and finds that a large and significant representation gap exists in all three countries. Using a model of representation advanced by Farber (1982) and Riddell (1993) we find that a majority of the union density differential between young and adult workers is due to supply-side constraints rather than a lower desire for unionisation on the part of the young. This finding lends credence to two conjectures made in the paper; the first is that tastes for collective representation do not differ among workers (either by nationality or by age) and second that union representation can be fruitfully modelled as an experience good. The experience good properties of union membership explain the persistence of union density differentials amongst youth and adults both over time and across countries.


Alex Bryson, Rafael Gomez, Morley Gunderson and Noah Meltz

January 2002     Paper Number CEPDP0515

Download PDF - Youth-Adult Differences in the Demand for Unionisation: Are American, British, and Canadian Workers All That Different?