Listen

Quoctrung Bui

Fifty years ago, nearly a third of U.S. workers belonged to a union. Today, it's one in 10. But the decline has not been the same for every state. Here is a map showing how union membership has changed across the country.

A few notes on the map:

  • In 1964, the Midwest was full of manufacturing jobs and had the highest concentration of union workers in America. That has changed dramatically — both because the share of jobs in manufacturing has fallen, and because fewer of the manufacturing jobs that remain are held by union workers.

Since World War II, inequality in the U.S. has gone through two, dramatically different phases.

In the first phase, known as the great compression, inequality fell. Incomes rose for people in the bottom 90 percent of the income distribution, as the postwar boom led to high demand for workers with low and moderate skills.

*We used data from the Census Bureau, which has two catch-all categories: "managers not elsewhere classified" and "salespersons not elsewhere classified." Because those categories are broad and vague to the point of meaninglessness, we excluded them from our map.

What's with all the truck drivers? Truck drivers dominate the map for a few reasons.

  • Driving a truck has been immune to two of the biggest trends affecting U.S. jobs: globalization and automation. A worker in China can't drive a truck in Ohio, and machines can't drive cars (yet).

What would incomes look like for U.S. families today if the income distribution were the same as it was in 1979?

Larry Summers recently made this really intriguing calculation in the FT.

His conclusions:

  • Families in the bottom 80 percent of the income distribution would be making $11,000 more per year, on average, than they're earning today.

Job growth has been strong and steady over the past year. Wages, not so much: Average pay for U.S. workers barely kept up with inflation. But there was a fair bit of variation across different sectors. Here's a look. (In the graph, the size of the circle indicates the total number of jobs in each sector.)