To be or not to be? Risk attitudes and gender differences in union membership

Research output: Working paper


Attracting membership while stifling freeriding and heterogeneous preferences among potential members is critical for trade union success. Women are generally seen as less inclined to join trade unions, particularly at the onset of the labor movement. We highlight a previously neglected explanation for this: the importance of risk and gender differences in assessment hereof. We study matched employer-employee data from two industries around the year 1900 where union membership was associated with different levels of risk: the Swedish cigar and printing industries. We find that the gender gap in membership was larger in the high-risk environment (cigar) and smaller in the low-risk environment (printing). Women were not hard to organize but avoided risks and uncertain returns.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Economic History


  • trade unions, risk aversion, gender, 19th century, 20th century, Sweden
Original languageEnglish
PublisherDepartment of Economic History, Lund University
Number of pages37
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

NameLund Papers in Economic History. Education and the Labour Market

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