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Public sector unions and the costs of government

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Public sector unions are major interest groups in American politics, but they are rarely studied. New research would not only shed much-needed light on how these unions shape government and politics, but also broaden the way scholars think about interest groups generally: by highlighting interests that arise inside governments, drawing attention to long-ignored types of policies and decision arenas, and underlining the importance of groups in subnational politics. Here we explore the effects of public sector unions on the costs of government. We present two separate studies, using different datasets from different historical periods, and we examine several outcomes: salaries, health benefits, and employment. We find that unions and collective bargaining increase the costs of government and that the effects are especially large for benefits. We view this analysis as an opening wedge that we hope will encourage a more extensive line of new research - and new thinking about American interest groups.

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