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Center for the Study of Labor and Democracy

Center for the Study of Labor and Democracy Research

Current Research Projects

Job Growth and Wage Patterns - We regularly publish the journal Regional Labor Review, a unique source of in-depth, up-to-date analysis of the latest labor market conditions in the New York-Long Island metropolitan area. Using monthly labor force and earnings data and the quarterly results of the Newsday/Hofstra Polls of Long Island, this regional labor report both describes current economic trends and provides short-term forecasts of the likely direction of key job market indicators over the next few months. Careful attention is given to socioeconomic differentials by industry, age, race, ethnicity, and gender. These regular reports should be of interest to business managers, community organizations, human resource specialists, labor unions, school career centers, social scientists, and policy-makers. Our aim is to ensure that they will, by avoiding unnecessary technical jargon and by using clear prose and graphics, also be accessible to students and the general public.

Youth Unemployment - The New York metro area has the lowest rates of youth jobholding in the nation. Our research is based on unique large-scale surveys of local employers and students sponsored by CLD, as well as national data for interregional comparisons. Our employer survey, the New York City Youth Employment Survey, is a first-of-its-kind project that succeeded in collecting a wealth of information on employers' (of all sizes) attitudes towards and experiences with young workers. In 1997, we began the New York College Student Job Survey, a large survey of jobholding and job search among students at several universities in New York City and on Long Island.

Immigration - Includes research on recent immigration's impacts on both natives and earlier immigrant workers locally and in other U.S. labor markets, and research on a number of Latin American source regions. CLD researchers are approaching this through quantitative analyses of large data banks; our survey includes interviews with immigrant youth and employers, and policy analysis and worker interviews in several Latin American countries.

Health Care Coverage and Policy - Our focus here is the declining accessibility and affordability of health benefits in the United States. We seek to identify those sectors of the economy where workers have lost the most ground in health benefits in order to reveal important insights about the impact of changing patterns of employment and incomes on the demographics of health care coverage and explore policy alternatives.

International Labor Issues - Comparative research is underway contrasting the U.S. experience with that of France, Italy, and several other countries, in the financial impacts of employee pension funds and their use as an agency for greater worker and public participation in employment of financial capital. Studies of changing labor market institutions and welfare-state policies in Russia have been the focus of two CLD conferences of leading Russian and American academics and union officials, as reported in two published books of papers. More recently, Cheryl Lehman has been investigating the impacts of these changes on gender differences in employment and social benefits, and Nick Kozlov has begun a collaborative project investigating the relationships between unit labor costs and exchange rate fluctuations, a key element in the ongoing decline in Russian living standards.

Working Papers

#1 "Youth Nonemployment in New York" by Gregory DeFreitas. Issued 11/97

#2 "Modeling Wage Inequality in the U.S. as Conditional Variation: A Time Series Approach" by Lonnie Stevans. Issued 12/97

#3 "Fertility and the Risk of Widowhood: Are Children a Hedge against the Loss of a Spouse?" by Niev Duffy. Issued 2/98

#4 "Labour Surplus, Worker Rights, and Productivity Growth: A Comparative Analysis of Asia and Latin America" by Gregory DeFreitas and Adriana Marshall. Issued 2/98

#5 "Cutbacks in Defense Spending: Outlook and Options for the Long Island Economy" by Martin Melkonian. Reissued 2/98

#6 "Reinvest in Long Island" by Martin Melkonian. Reissued 2/98

#7 "Women, Minorities and Discrimination: A Survey of Theories and Policy Issues" by Gregory DeFreitas. Issued 2/98

#8 "Fear of Foreigners: Immigrants As Scapegoats for Domestic Woes" by Gregory DeFreitas. Revised Version Issued 4/99

#9 "Where Are the Women? The Underrepresentation of Women on Corporate Boards and in Executive Offices" by Niev Duffy, Susan Maloney and Jessica Rekhi. Issued 11/99

#10 "Urban Racial Unemployment Differentials: The New York Case" by Gregory DeFreitas. Issued 12/99

#11 "Protecting Human Rights In A Global Economy: The Impact Of Government Responses To Day Labor Markets" by Gregory M. Maney, Elizabeth Campisi, Nadia Marin Molina and Carlos Canales. Issued 2/06

#12 "THE STATE of NEW YORK UNIONS 2007" by Gregory DeFreitas and Bhaswati Sengupta.

#1 "Youth Nonemployment in New York"
by Gregory DeFreitas. Issued 11/97

The past two decades of rising income inequality and falling real earnings have produced deep concern over the job prospects of young Americans. No group has been harder hit than those aged 16 to 24, particularly the less-educated among them. Just as adults' earnings stagnation has made their children's contributions more important, many young people have had increasing difficulty finding the entry-level jobs that traditionally have opened the way to career paths and wage growth. New York has the lowest fraction of youth holding jobs of any big city. Barely one-fifth of its teenagers were employed in the late 1990s, a rate far below that of earlier decades. Despite the worrisome implications of these patterns for young people and their families and for the future of the city's economy, remarkably little economic research exists on the subject. Moreover, the data sources used have been census or special surveys of young people which lacked information on demand-side factors.

This report summarizes selected results from the New York City Youth Employment Survey, conducted on a probability sample of 424 private sector employers from Oct. 1995 through April 1996. After first reviewing the recent economic and sociological literature on youth wage and employment levels, the survey sample, questionnaire, and interviewing methods are detailed. The survey includes a wide array of information on hiring practices, employment changes over the past year, current employment by age, sex, and nativity, and expectations of future hiring.

The empirical analysis concludes that higher immigrant employment shares do not appear to significantly affect the employment shares of either teenagers or youth ages 20 to 24. In fact, there generally seems to be a positive correlation between youth and immigrant employment growth in the firms surveyed. Some of the more serious concerns for those seeking improvements in youth employability are: widespread employer perceptions of serious youth disadvantages in terms of their work attitudes and experience, schooling, and "people skills"; employers' neglect of measures of applicants' educational performance in the hiring process; rising competition with adult jobseekers; and New York's weak economic conditions and ongoing structural changes. The report ends by outlining a series of policy implications for the future.

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#2 Modeling Wage Inequality in the U.S as a Conditional Variation: A Time-Series Approach
by Lonnie K. Stevans

In this paper, we argue that wage volatility is a good proxy for wage inequality because of the strong and lagged correlation between the two. For seven industry categories, inequality is modeled as a conditional variance process over the period 1964-1988. It is modified to allow for explanatory variables that have a robust theoretical basis for inclusion as determinants of wage inequality. One of the major findings is the identification of the major contributors to rising U.S. wage inequality in the 1980s: the declining real value of the minimum wage, the loss of collective bargaining gains by labor, and immigration.

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#3 "Fertility and the Risk of Widowhood: Are Children a Hedge against the Loss of a Spouse?"
by Niev Duffy

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the extent to which a woman's fertility is influenced by the threat of financial loss upon widowhood and by the role of her children's economic contribution in hedging against the risk, particularly in developing countries at the early stages of demographic transition. This paper presents a structural model of childbearing behavior guided by a sequential decision-making process in which contraceptive uncertainty plays a central role.

The empirical analysis is performed using retrospective data from the second round of the Malaysian Family Life Survey, compiled by Rand Corporation. The analysis makes use of information concerning individual birth and contraceptive histories, earnings, household expenditures, education and family background. Since the model presented here investigates a woman's concern about her expected future socioeconomic status if she is widowed, values for two related variables must be imputed. The first is the individual-specific probability of widowhood at any given time. The second is the potential income of a woman in widowhood if she is, or becomes, economically active.

Empirical results demonstrate that the role of children in hedging against financial hardship in widowhood has a strong influence on childbearing behavior. The expected marginal net economic benefit from an additional child in widowhood is found to be a highly significant factor in the determination of fertility rates. The marginal benefit is highest for women with low potential income and few surviving children. In such cases woman's economic vulnerability is greatest, particularly when it is compounded by a high individual probability of widowhood. Empirical results confirm that conception rates are boosted by each of these factors.

The analytical results throw new light on the ambiguous relationship between income and fertility, and help to explain widely differing fertility responses to rising income in developing countries. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a (non-linear) negative relationship between conception rates and women's income can occur, even in the absence of an opportunity cost associated with children. And since a husband's income does not provide security for a woman's widowhood, household income can rise with no impact on fertility level.

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#4 Labor Surplus, Worker Rights and Productivity Growth: A Comparative Analysis of Asia and Latin America
by Gregory DeFreitas and Adriana Marshall

How do labor market conditions, trade union rights and job security regulations affect labor productivity? This paper is the first attempt at an empirical analysis of this important question for a large sample of Asian and Latin American countries. We provide new estimates of the rates of surplus labor in 20 countries, as well as detailed tables summarizing their key regulations governing certain aspects of union activity and layoffs. Then we exploit this and other data in an econometric analysis of intercountry differentials in the growth rate of labor productivity in manufacturing during the 1980s. Among the principal results, we find that while, all else the same, productivity growth rates are significantly higher in countries with relatively larger labor surpluses, the effects of excess labor on productivity growth are affected by the strength or weakness of union rights. We also find that the impacts of union rights and job security protections on productivity trends may be either positive or negative, depending on the labor market situation.

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#5 Cutbacks in Defense Spending: Outlook and Options for the Long Island Economy
by Martin Melkonian

Long Island enjoyed a strong and vibrant economy in the 1980s. Its growth was propelled by federal defense dollars which will be of decreasing significance in the future, both because of constrained military spending and Long Island's largely aging defense programs.

Economic adjustments can be harsh if it is left to market forces alone. Unemployment will rise, firms will go bankrupt and the housing market will suffer. Alternatively, our business and civil leaders can take an active role in promoting new sources of strength. We do not believe that the primary focus should be greater pressure for bringing a shrinking pool of defense contracts to Long Island or using our limited political capital to unduly extend the contracts of aging defense systems. Rather we suggest a regional approach to promote economic diversification and long-term growth compatible with a clean environment. Specific policies might include:

  • Accelerating the development of industries with growth and high value potential (biotech, computer software, specialized electronics, alternative energy, etc.), given the reality that Long Island is an expensive place to do business.
  • Assisting communities and firms with declining defense prospects to diversify to useful civilian products. Many state and federal programs are already in place and must be fully utilized.
  • Emphasizing the economic potential of environmental protection by initiating a major Long Island-based Environmental Institute.
  • Developing exportable products and services that could result from Long Island's focused solutions to its water, garbage, energy, and other problems.
  • Improving our already impressive array of human resources through a closer alliance between business and educational institutions.
  • Retraining workers with obsolete or low productivity skills.
  • Upgrading recreational facilities to assure quality living and continued attractiveness for our lucrative tourism industry.
  • Instituting a regional development bank to encourage new venture capital for fledgling firms unable to attract money through normal banking sources.

Starting from a strong economic base, Long Island is well-positioned to deal with the prospective decline in the once paramount defense industry. But a smooth adjustment is unlikely to occur on its own. What is required is the implementation of long-range plans with strong citizens, business and government involvement, to solve the problems ahead.

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#6 Reinvest in Long Island
by Martin Melkonian

Throughout most of the Cold War period, Long Island was the beneficiary of huge expenditures by the Pentagon. Unlike most of the country, more federal dollars poured into Nassau and Suffolk counties than was extracted by federal taxes. Sharp cuts in the military procurement budget since 1987 have meant a 30 percent reduction in prime contracts - a decrease of nearly $2 billion - for Long Island's defense firms. The result is the now familiar regional recession with its accompanying high unemployment, business failures, and declining real estate values, along with growing homelessness and hunger among the most vulnerable.

While the initial source of Long Island's weakened economy may have been cutbacks in the defense sector - more than 30,000 workers have lost jobs - unemployment has spread to other industries. The loss of regional income, along with structural problems of their own, has forced contraction in the banking, trade, and real estate industries. Construction, which was tied to the commercial real estate boom, has sharply reduced employment by a third since 1988. Then, of course, we see multiplier effects on retailers, suppliers and even service industries as income declines. The result is the overall loss of about 100,000 jobs on Long Island since 1989.

Outlined in this paper are several public investment projects that could make Long Island a better place to live and do business, while strengthening the region's economic base. Assuming cutbacks of $30 billion per year in federal defense expenditures, over five years the cumulative total savings would be $450 billion in current defense dollars. Long Island's share of those savings is estimated to be between $7-9 billion over five years, depending on whether we receive a pro-rata share based on tax contribution by Long Islanders or our historical share of federal contracts. Included are 5-year cost estimates and the number of potential jobs that would be generated by these federal expenditures. It should be noted that many of the projects would generate considerable additional private investment and jobs as well.

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#7 "Women, Minorities and Discrimination: A Survey of Theories and Policy Issues"
by Gregory DeFreitas. Issued 2/98

Economic inequality worsened dramatically in the United States during the last 20 years. As the rich grew richer, the middle class was squeezed, the working class suffered shrinking wages, and record numbers fell into poverty and homelessness. These trends drew new attention to one of the most controversial issues in modern economics: the unequal economic status of women and racial and ethnic minorities compared to white males, and the impact on it of discrimination.

Until the 1960s, this was viewed as an important though marginal issue for the economy. But women are now more numerous than men, blacks and Hispanics, and Asians are one-fourth of the nation's population and growing fast. In fact, these "minorities" are already a nonwhite majority in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and several other major cities. By the year 2050, they are expected to account for nearly one-half of the U.S. population, due to their higher immigration and birth rates. Hence, the future of our economy will be ever-more dependent on female and minority workers. They will provide about 70 percent of all new workers entering the labor force through the year 2000.

This paper is designed as something of a primer on current economic analysis of inequality and discrimination. We will first clarify precisely what economists mean by "discrimination." Then we evaluate, in turn, the magnitude of and major explanations for, economic inequality between blacks and whites, Hispanics and non-Hispanics, and men and women. Finally, the principal policies to combat discrimination are discussed in the context of recent debates.

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#8 "Fear of Foreigners: Immigrants as Scapegoats for Domestic Woes"
by Gregory DeFreitas. Revised Version Issued 4/99

Are unemployment, income inequality, and budget deficits in the U.S. today worsened by economic crises abroad? Many politicians and others over the past decade came to think so and they placed much of the blame for the influx of foreign ills on one source: immigrants. These concerns led to the passage of a 1996 legislation that excluded even legal aliens from public assistance programs, imposed higher income tests on Americans wishing to sponsor them, and sharply limited claims for political asylum.

The 1990s turn toward more restrictive policies, both here and abroad, reflected in part by the emergence of highly nationalistic and ethnocentric political forces opposed on principle to sizable foreign-born populations in their midst. But it was also driven by broader public concerns: national surveys show that over three-fifths of Americans believe that immigration should be reduced. The three main sources of public anxiety are, first, that the country is "under siege" by unprecedented waves of new immigrants; second, that job-hungry newcomers worsen U.S. unemployment by competing with the native born for increasingly scarce openings, as well as weakening natives' ability to resist wage cuts; and finally, that more and more low-skilled migrants are exploiting public programs like welfare, and thereby straining already overburdened state and local budgets.

This paper concludes from a wealth of recent empirical research that these fears are largely unfounded. Immigration rates have risen since the 1960s, but are lower than at other times in U.S. history. Popular anger at immigrants is a misguided response to deep-rooted inequalities. Immigrant workers have little impact on the job or wage prospects of the native-born population. And immigrants tend to pay more in total taxes than they use in social services. There are cost pressures on government budgets in localities where the foreign born are concentrated, but they could be eased by progressive federal policies. Although "open borders" would not be a feasible policy, a generous and humanitarian approach to immigration is not necessarily incompatible with strong income and employment growth for native workers.

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#9 Where are the Women? The Underrepresentation of Women on Corporate Boards and in Executive Offices
by Dr. Niev Duffy, Susan Maloney and Jessica Rekhi.

Over the years, women have consistently been underrepresented in many of the most well-paying and prestigious occupations. As women have entered the labor force in increasing numbers over the last few decades, there has been growing concern about the presence of a 'glass ceiling' barring the promotion of women. These concerns have spurred numerous studies regarding patterns of occupational segregation, though few have attempted to measure the extent to which women are represented among corporate officers and board members. Those that have clearly demonstrated that women are underrepresented at the highest levels of corporate management. Even fewer studies have performed regional analyses. On Long Island, research pioneered by a nonprofit organization, Women on the Job, found a dearth of women on the corporate boards of the top public companies in the region. A more expansive survey performed by Newsday later provided further evidence of the underrepresentation of women on corporate boards on the Island. Research presented in this study broadens the inquiry to include corporate officers and a greater number of publicly held companies on Long Island.

The research presented in this paper demonstrates that women have very low rates of representation among both corporate directors and officers of the top 100 publicly held corporations on Long Island. We also find a strong positive relationship between the presence of female officers and women's representation on corporate boards, suggesting that impediments to the internal promotion of women diminish the probability of women being appointed to corporate boards. The larger corporations tend to be somewhat more progressive, though in a broader sample of smaller companies we would not expect to see this relationship maintained. We find that, overall, female representation among corporate directors and officers of the top 100 firms on Long Island is considerably lower than within the Fortune 500 firms, which are much larger on average. Further research is needed in order to determine the extent to which discrimination may play a role in hindering the promotion of women within corporations, however, the evidence presented here lends credibility to the commonly held view that the 'glass ceiling' has not yet been shattered.

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#10 Urban Racial Unemployment Differentials: The New York Case
by Gregory DeFreitas

Recent empirical studies have uncovered marked geographic variations in the unemployment experiences of racial and ethnic groups in the United States. In particular, both the levels and cyclical trends of African-American joblessness and of the black-white unemployment gap appear to differ greatly by region, metropolitan area, and city. Thus Freeman and Rodgers find marked differences in these measures among young men (16-24 year-old non-students) in three metro area groupings: those with continuous low unemployment throughout the 1990s, those with steady high unemployment, and those areas enjoying rapid drops in jobless rates. The largest employment improvements over the decade among non-college-educated African-Americans occurred in areas of continuous low unemployment. In fact, in these labor markets much of the gap in average employment-population rates between less-educated blacks and whites was closed as the expansion lengthened. Their study suggests that an influential factor behind these interarea racial differentials is the tendency of higher employment cities to have lower crime rates. The fewer the number of less-educated residents hindered by prison records, the greater their likely employability.

There is a national pattern of widening black-white nonparticipation gaps since the late 1970s, even in periods of falling unemployment like the 1990s. The declines in active labor force participants have been large enough to outweigh the shrinking volume of the officially unemployed, leading to a rise in total nonemployment (sum of nonparticipation and unemployment) rates. This trend appears to be concentrated among the young and less educated. But, her data on the duration of nonparticipation indicates that a rising fraction (up to over 14 percent by the mid-90s) of mature black men ages 20-54 are out of the labor force a year or more.

In an attempt to see how relevant the findings from these national studies are for local economies, this brief paper focuses on minority unemployment in the country's largest urban center, New York City. More blacks live there - 2.1 million in 1998 - than in any other city. In fact, New York's African-American population alone exceeds the entire population of all but two cities in the country. New York has also for some years had the distinction of experiencing the highest unemployment rates of any major city. In 1998, after some seven years of a national expansion, the city's jobless rate still averaged 8 percent, 3.5 percentage points above the overall U.S. level. The local African-American rate has also been far above average. Figure 1 shows black unemployment rates in the center cities of the ten largest metropolitan areas. Eighteen percent of New York's black labor force is unemployed, nearly twice the national level and five percentage points higher than the average for the largest cities.

What can account for the recent black unemployment experience in New York? This paper compares black unemployment, employment population, and underemployment rates in the city with those of whites and Hispanics in New York and in other large cities. Among the explanatory factors explored are: educational attainment, immigration, wage levels, trends in labor demand, crime and incarceration, and racial discrimination. The paper concludes by considering a series of policy alternatives.

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#11 Protecting Human Rights In A Global Economy: The Impact Of Government Responses To Day Labor Markets
by Gregory M. Maney, Elizabeth Campisi, Nadia Marin Molina and Carlos Canales

This report combines statistical and qualitative methods to analyze the human rights impacts of different government policies upon day laborers. Day labor markets bring contractors looking for low to semi-skilled manual labor for small contracts often lasting only a day together with workers willing to provide this type of flexible labor. Although these markets are nothing new in the United States, their rapid growth in suburban areas reflects changes in the global economy. Along with restrictive immigration laws, these changes have made immigrant workers vulnerable to a range of human rights abuses. In this context, government policy responses to day labor markets play important roles in upholding our nation's commitment to human rights.

To provide a solid empirical basis for informed policy formation on this important issue, we conducted the Long Island Day Labor Survey. We surveyed one hundred and forty-six workers selected at random at major day labor sites in eight municipalities. Of these eight municipalities, three have official hiring sites, allowing for a meaningful assessment of the impact of a policy response often proposed by immigrant rights advocate. With large and highly active day labor markets located in suburban areas that vary considerably in their size, incorporated status, ethnic compositions, and socio-economic characteristics, Long Island provides important insights for a wide range of communities across the United States experiencing rapid growth in these markets.

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by Gregory DeFreitas and Bhaswati Sengupta

This report aims to provide the first detailed description of major characteristics of and trends in recent unionization in the New York metropolitan area. The empirical analysis was conducted on large microdata sets from the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Surveys.

Among the key highlights of our findings are:

  • Union membership has increased in both New York City and Long Island since the late 1990s, though at different rates that barely keep pace with overall employment. The number of New York City residents in labor unions rose by 65,455 - an 8.3 percent increase - between 1997-99 and 2004-06. Today, about 26.4 percent of New York wage and salary workers belong to a union. Long Island experienced a much smaller 0.7 percent increase in union membership; its 317,450 union members account for 23.5 percent of all employees (the "union density rate"). As a result, the broader New York-Northern New Jersey metropolitan area has the highest union density rate - 23.3 percent - of any major metro area - and far above the 12 percent rate nationwide.
  • However, the city's membership gains have not fully kept up with overall employment growth, resulting in a slight drop (one-half percentage point) in the union density rate since the late 1990s. And it remains well below the late 1980s level, when 34.4 percent of employed New Yorkers were in unions. In contrast, over the same period on Long Island, the unionization rate has remained remarkably stable, thereby shrinking the gap between city and suburb.
  • Underlying the trends in both union membership and in the slightly broader union coverage rate (including non-members covered by union contracts) are often marked variations in unions' fortunes among workers differentiated by gender, race and ethnicity, immigrant status, hours of work, public-private sector, and industry. New female union workers accounted for 92 percent of the total rise in union coverage in New York City, and 100 percent of the coverage increase on Long Island. While the city's union coverage rate has fallen among men from 29.2 in the late 1990s to 26.2 percent today, the female rate has moved ahead from 28.3 to 29.2 percent over the same period. On Long Island, union contracts now cover 28.6 percent of men and 24.6 percent of women workers - and the gap between them has been cut in half since the late 1990s.
  • In fact, white men today account for only 18.6 per cent of New York City's unionized work force. On Long Island, the white male union share is over twice as large (43.1 per cent), but a growing majority of its union workers are now women and minority men.
  • African American women in New York City are more likely than any other demographic group, male or female, to hold jobs with union representation. The black female union density rate of nearly 44 per cent is followed by that of African American men (36.5 per cent), Latina women (29.4 per cent), Latino men (27.9 per cent), white non-Hispanic women (27.4 per cent), white non-Hispanic men (26.1 per cent), Asian women (20.8 per cent) and Asian men (27.9 per cent). Black women also have the highest rate of union coverage on Long Island (34.7 per cent).
  • Immigrant workers have also registered large gains in union coverage since the late 1990s. In New York City, our findings for 2004-2006 reveal that of an immigrant workforce of 1.49 million wage and salary employees, 390,469 (26.2 per cent) are in union jobs. That means that immigrants now account for 43.5 per cent of the city's entire union work force. Moreover, new foreign-born union members have been the main source of union growth since the late 1990s, accounting for 87.7 per cent of new unionization. Though immigrants on Long Island are a far smaller fraction of the work force, increased unionization among foreign-born citizens since the late 1990s has been large enough to more than outweigh the slight dip in the numbers of native-born and non-citizen immigrant union members.
  • Public sector jobs have been an important part of employment stability and, since the late 1990s, growth for unionized workers. Three out of four public sector workers have union coverage in both New York City and Long Island, a rate nearly twice the national average. But unions now represent only one-fifth of private sector workers in the city and 13.7 percent on Long Island.
  • Among major age groups in New York City, only older workers aged 45 and over have experienced any sizable growth in union membership since the late 1990s. The number of 25-to-34 year-olds in unions actually fell, but was more than offset by union gains among their elders. On Long Island, only those 55 and over recorded more union membership: their large 38.3 percent rise in membership barely offset the drop in the number of younger members. The decline in unionization among the young, though largely driven by shifting demographics, raises questions about unions' future growth prospects in the region.
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