Throughout the post—war period, U.S. and Canadian unemployment rates
moved in tandem, but this historical link apparently ended in 1982.
During the past three years, Canadian unemployment rates have been some
three percentage points higher than their U.S. analogues, and this gap
shows no sign of diminishing. This paper is an empirical evaluation of
a variety of explanations for this new unemployment gap.
We first show that the demographic and industrial composition of
the two countries is remarkably similar, so that no simple mechanical
hypothesis explain the basic puzzle. It is also evident that the
increase in Canadian unemployment relative to U.S. unemployment cannot
be fully attributed to output movements. We find that the gap between
actual and predicted Canadian output, based on U.S. output, has fallen
dramatically since 1982 while the unemployment gap has widened. We also
find that unemployment in Canada was 2 to 3 percentage points higher in
1983 and 1984 than predicted by Canadian output.
We have investigated a variety of hypotheses to explain the slow
growth of employment in Canada after 1982. These hypotheses attribute
the slow growth of employment to rigidities in the labor market that
raise employers’ costs and restrict the flow of workers between
sectors. The evidence does not support the notion that the growth in
relative unemployment in Canada is due to differences in the regulation
of the labor market in the two countries. Minimum wage laws and
unemployment benefits are fairly similar in Canada and the U.S., and
neither has changed relative to the other in the last decade.
Unionization rates have increased in Canada relative to U.S. since
1970. Most of this divergence occurred before 1980, however, and does
not seem to have created an unemployment gap prior to 1980. Finally,
the hypothesis that differential real wage rates are a major determinant
of relative employment in the U.S. and Canada is soundly rejected by the
data. Real wage rates have been essentially uncorrelated with employ-
ment movements within each country and between the two countries.

Year of Publication
Date Published
Publication Language
Citation Key
Economica, 53 Special Issue July 1986 S171 - S195
Ashenfelter, O., & Card, D. (1986). Why Have Unemployment Rates in Canada and the U.S. Diverged?. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01bn999673s (Original work published February 1986)
Working Papers

We estimate the effect of new unionization on firms’ equity value over the 1961-1999 period using a newly
assembled sample of National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) representation elections matched to stock market
data. Event-study estimates show an average union effect on the equity value of the firm eq uivalent to a cost of at
least $40,500 per unionized worker. At the same time, point estimates from a regression-discontinuity design –
comparing the stock market impact of close union election wins to close losses – are considerably smaller and close
to zero. We find a negative relationship between the cumulative abnormal returns and the vote share in support of
the union, allowing us to reconcile these seemingly contradictory findings. Using the magnitudes from the analysis,
we calibrate a structural “median voter” model of endogenous union determination in order to conduct
counterfactual policy simulations of policies that would marginally increase the ease of unionization.

Year of Publication
Date Published
Publication Language
Citation Key
Mas, A., & Lee, D. (2009). Long-Run Impacts of Unions on Firms: New Evidence from Financial Markets, 1961-1999. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp011c18df784 (Original work published January 2009)
Working Papers