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Right-to-Work Laws: The Economic Evidence

June 4, 2015
By Jeffery A. Eisenach

This study, written by George Mason University Law School adjunct professor Jeffery A. Eisenach, examines comparative data on economic performance in states with and without right-to-work (RTW) laws.

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This study, written by George Mason University Law School adjunct professor Jeffery A. Eisenach, examines comparative data on economic performance in states with and without right-to-work (RTW) laws.

States with RTW laws enjoy faster employment growth and produce more wealth, Eisenach writes.

“Private sector employment grew by 17.4 percent in RTW states between 2001 and 2013, more than double the 8.2 percent increase in non-RTW states,” Eisenach wrote. “On average, the annual unemployment rate in RTW states was 0.5 percent lower than in non-RTW states. In concrete terms, if non-RTW states had had the same unemployment rate as RTW states in 2014, approximately 402,000 more people would have been employed. Output has also grown faster in RTW than in non-RTW states, rising by more than 30 percent between 2001 and 2013, compared to 20 percent in non-RTW states. Seven of the 10 states with the largest growth in real output over this period are RTW states.

States with RTW laws are more productive and workers in RTW states earn more money, Eisenach writes.

“The gap in manufacturing output is even greater—real manufacturing output rose by 35 percent in RTW states between 2001 and 2013, compared with 19 percent in non-RTW states,” Eisenach wrote. “Higher growth rates translated into higher personal incomes: personal income in RTW states rose by nearly twice as much as in non-RTW states between 2001 and 2013—27.7 percent vs. 15.3 percent. Businesses more often choose locations in RTW states, as evidenced by the more rapid growth of firms and establishments.”