Cost More to Live and Work in Non-Right to Work States

All of the 13 most affordable states last year had adopted Right to Work laws. But not one of the 14 least affordable states had done so. (Shown above are the 10 most/least affordable states.)

Least-Affordable States Are All Forced Unionism

Studies Show Right to Work Laws Make Your Dollars Go Further

In February, the Jefferson City-based Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC), a state government agency, published its latest set of state comparative cost-of-living indices.

As MERIC explains on its web site, it “derives the cost of living index for each state by averaging the indices of participating cities and metropolitan areas in that state.”

(The city/metropolitan area indices are derived from an ongoing nationwide survey conducted by the nonpartisan, Arlington, Va.-based Council for Community and Economic Research.)

Overall Cost of Living 28.8% Higher in Forced-Unionism States

MERIC’s latest indices estimate the average annual cost of living in 2017 for all 50 states.

The National Institute for Labor Relations Research has now used these data to calculate average annual costs of living for Right to Work states as a group and forced-unionism as a group.

As of early last year, 28 states had adopted Right to Work laws protecting employees from federal labor law provisions authorizing fored union dues and fees.

Unfortunately, Missouri’s law has yet to take effect as a consequence of Big Labor’s so-far successful exploitation of an obscure state constitutional provision to prevent its implementation.

The 27 states with active Right to Work laws combined had a population-weighted cost of living 6.1% below the national average in 2017. Forced-unionism states combined had a population-weighted cost of living 20.9% above the national average.

(MERIC itself does not weigh states based on population size in calculating its indices.

For that reason, the national average for population-weighted states does not equal 100.)

On average, forced-unionism states were 28.8% more expensive to live in than Right to Work states last year.

The correlation between forced-unionism status and a higher cost of living is robust.

Not one of the 14 highest-cost states in 2017 has a Right to Work law. But the 13 lowest-cost states all have Right to Work laws, and in 12 of the 13 those laws were in effect last year.

Correlation does not equal causation, but there is a compelling case to be made that compulsory unionism actually fosters a higher cost of living.

Union officials wielding forced-dues privileges funnel a large share of the conscripted money they reap into efforts to elect and reelect politicians who favor higher taxes on and heavier regulation of businesses.

Employees Care About What Their Paychecks Can Buy

And many economists credibly argue that excessive government regulation is a major factor behind high housing, energy, and other costs in forced-unionism states like California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Moreover, decades of academic research by economists such as Thomas M. Carroll and Richard J. Cebula has shown that one side benefit of state Right to Work laws is that they help reduce the cost of living in the jurisdictions where they are in effect.

John Kalb, vice president of the National Right to Work Committee, commented:

“Even in the unlikely event it could be established that forced unionism did not cause higher living costs, the strong correlation between forced unionism and higher costs would still be relevant in assessing the economic impact of Right to Work laws.

“What matters most to employees seeking better lives for themselves and their families and employers seeking to attract and retain good employees is not nominal wages and salaries.

“It is what those wages and salaries can buy in the location where the employees and their families live.

“That’s why honest efforts to make comparisons of annual wages and salaries and other types of income in Right to Work states versus forced-unionism states must always be informed by MERIC’s or some other nonpartisan comparative cost-of-living index.

“Unfortunately, state income data cited by Big Labor propagandists frequently do not factor in regional cost-of-living differences at all.

“And even when they are incorporated, cost-of-living differences are grossly and arbitrarily understated.”

(Click here to download the April 2018 National Right to Work Newsletter)