By Zaid Jilani
September 26, 2011
As ThinkProgress previously reported, unions are a key building block of the middle class, and as unionization rates fell in the 20th century, so did the middle class’s share of national income.
Now, the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s David Madland and Nick Bunker have crunched the numbers and found that if unionization rates were just 10 percentage points higher — meaning there would be a net rate of 22.2 percent as opposed to the current 12.2 percent — the typical middle class household would earn $1,479 more every year. That number is almost equivalent to the $1,638 more these families would earn every year from increasing college attainment rates by 10 percent:
The table below shows the state-by-state impact of unions on income. If unionization rates increased by 10 percentage points—to roughly the level they were in 1980—the typical middle-class household, unionized or not,would earn $1,479 more a year.
To put that number in context, increasing college attainment rates by 10 percentage points would boost middle-class incomes by $1,638. Similarly, decreasing unemployment rates by 4 percentage points—bringing rates down to pre-Great Recession levels—would increase household income by $772 per household.
Madland and Bunker charted out the estimated gains from a 10 percent increase in unionization for typical middle-class households across the 50 states. They range from a $1,096 gain in Nevada to a $1,969 gain in New Jersey. Find your state in the chart below: