Are School Reopening Decisions Related to Union Influence?
25 Pages Posted: 1 Sep 2020
Date Written: September 1, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread school closures affecting millions of K-12 students in the United States in the spring of 2020. Groups representing teachers have pushed to reopen public schools virtually in the fall because of concerns about the health risks associated with reopening in person. In theory, stronger teachers’ unions may more successfully influence public school districts to reopen without in-person instruction. Using data on the reopening decisions of 835 public school districts in the United States, we find that school districts in locations with stronger teachers’ unions are less likely to reopen in person even after we control semi-parametrically for differences in local demographic characteristics. These results are robust to four measures of union strength, various potential confounding characteristics, and a further disaggregation to the county level. We also do not find evidence to suggest that measures of COVID-19 risk are correlated with school reopening decisions.
Keywords: Collective Bargaining, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Reopening, School Closures, Unions
JEL Classification: I28, I20
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation