Saturday , July 24 2021
Home / Paul Krugman / Trucking And Blue-Collar Woes

Trucking And Blue-Collar Woes

Summary:
What with everything else going on, this Trip Gabriel essay on truckers hasn’t gotten as much attention as it should. But it’s awesome — and says a lot about what is and isn’t behind the decline of blue-collar wages. Trucking used to be a well-paying occupation. Here are wages of transportation and warehousing workers in today’s dollars, which have fallen by a third since the early 1970s: Why? This is neither a trade nor a technology story. We’re not importing Chinese trucking services; robot truck drivers are a possible future, but not here yet. The article mentions workers displaced from manufacturing, but that’s a pretty thin reed. What it doesn’t mention is the obvious thing: unions. Unfortunately the occupational categories covered by the BLS have changed a bit, so

Topics:
Paul Krugman considers the following as important:

This could be interesting, too:

Tyler Cowen writes Friday assorted links

Tyler Cowen writes *The Morning Star*, by Karl Knausgaard

Tyler Cowen writes Claims about the art world (and other things)

Tyler Cowen writes Do honorifics pass a market test?

What with everything else going on, this Trip Gabriel essay on truckers hasn’t gotten as much attention as it should. But it’s awesome — and says a lot about what is and isn’t behind the decline of blue-collar wages.

Trucking used to be a well-paying occupation. Here are wages of transportation and warehousing workers in today’s dollars, which have fallen by a third since the early 1970s:

Trucking And Blue-Collar Woes

Why? This is neither a trade nor a technology story. We’re not importing Chinese trucking services; robot truck drivers are a possible future, but not here yet. The article mentions workers displaced from manufacturing, but that’s a pretty thin reed. What it doesn’t mention is the obvious thing: unions.

Unfortunately the occupational categories covered by the BLS have changed a bit, so it will take someone with more time than I have right now to do this right. But using the data at unionstats we can see that a drastic fall in trucker unionization took place during the 1980s: 38 percent of “heavy truck” drivers covered by unions in 1983, already down to 25 percent by 1991. It’s not quite comparable, but only 13 percent of “drivers/sales workers and truck drivers” were covered last year.

In short, this looks very much like a non tradable industry where workers used to have a lot of bargaining power through collective action, and lost it in the great union-busting that took place under Reagan and after.

And the great majority of the people whose chance at a middle-class life was destroyed by those political changes probably voted for Trump. Oh well.

Paul Krugman
Paul Robin Krugman (born February 28, 1953) is an American economist, Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and an op-ed columnist for The New York Times. In 2008, Krugman won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to New Trade Theory and New Economic Geography.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *