Blanden, Jo and Machin, Stephen (2002) Cross-generation correlations of union status for young people in Britain. CEPDP, 553. Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK. ISBN 0753015919
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In this paper we investigate whether young people whose fathers are union members are themselves more likely to join a union. The work builds upon a large social science literature on intergenerational mobility that, to our knowledge, has not been applied to industrial relations questions. The paper asks questions and provides evidence from British longitudinal data on several issues to do with the cross-generation transmission of union status: i) We first calculate odds ratios, as often used in the literature on social mobility, to look at empirical connections between the union status of young people and their fathers. We calculate relative risk ratios that measure the relative chances that a child of a unionized father is unionized as compared to the relative chances of the child of a non-union father being unionized. This relative risk ratio is of the order of 2, showing that young people with unionized fathers are twice as likely to be unionized as those with non-union fathers. ii) The relative risk ratio is higher, at over 3, for young people with fathers who report themselves as being active in a union. To the extent that active in a union fathers are more likely to ''spread the word'' about unions to their offspring, this higher relative risk ratio supports the idea that the socialization within the family during the formative years passes on positive knowledge about unions to children of unionized parents making them more likely to join a union. iii) The intergenerational correlation of union status has not reduced over time. Despite a widening of the union membership gap between older and younger workers, relative risk ratios calculated from early 1980s data are no larger than those from the 1990s. iv) The cross-generation correlation is not driven by common within-family characteristics (like occupation, industry and political persuasion) that are strongly related to union status in the data.
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