Are School Reopening Decisions Related to Union Influence?

25 Pages Posted: 1 Sep 2020

See all articles by Corey DeAngelis

Corey DeAngelis

American Federation for Children; Cato Institute; Reason Foundation

Christos Makridis

Stanford University; Institute for the Future (IFF), Department of Digital Innovation, School of Business, University of Nicosia; Arizona State University (ASU); Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

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

DeAngelis, Corey and Makridis, Christos, Are School Reopening Decisions Related to Union Influence? (September 1, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Corey DeAngelis (Contact Author)

American Federation for Children ( email )

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Cato Institute ( email )

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Reason Foundation ( email )

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Christos Makridis

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Institute for the Future (IFF), Department of Digital Innovation, School of Business, University of Nicosia ( email )

Nicosia, 2417

Arizona State University (ASU) ( email )

Farmer Building 440G PO Box 872011
Tempe, AZ 85287
United States

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) ( email )

810 Vermont Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20420
United States

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