“Which Side Are You On?”: A Historical Study of Union Membership Composition in Seven Western Countries

Cyprien Batut, Ulysse Lojkine*, Paolo Santini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This study uses surveys from the past 60 years to study union membership in Denmark, France, West Germany, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. We first revisit aggregate union densities finding that, for France and Italy, they were at times under- and overestimated, respectively. Second, we document the evolution of the composition of union membership in terms of gender, occupation, education, and sector. Different stylized facts emerge for different groups of countries. These facts do not lend support to the composition-based theory that attributes deunionization to deindustrialization, nor to the technological theory that predicts the exit of the high-skilled from unions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIndustrial Relations
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)205-287
Number of pages83
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 15 August 2023

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