What follows is a list of U.S. states by GDP and GDP per capita in 2010. The “right to work” states are indicated in boldface.
|Rank||GDP||Pct. of US||Pop.||GDP Per||Rank Per|
|3 New York||1,156,500||7.68||19.4||57,423||6|
|7 New Jersey||497,000||3.42||8.8||56,477||7|
|10 North Carolina||407,400||2.81||9.5||42,884||30|
|27 South Carolina||164,300||1.13||4.6||35,717||47|
|37 New Mexico||75,500||0.52||2.1||35,952||46|
|39 West Virginia||66,600||0.46||1.9||35,053||48|
|41 New Hampshire||61,600||0.42||1.3||47,385||21|
|44 Rhode Island||49,500||0.34||1.1||45,000||25|
|46 South Dakota||39,900||0.27||0.8||49,875||15|
|49 North Dakota||33,400||0.23||0.7||47,714||19|
Of the top ten states by total GDP, four are “right-to-work” states; of the top twenty, eight are “right to work”; of the top thirty, 14 are “right to work.”
In contrast, of the top ten states by per-capita GDP, two are “right to work” states”; of the top twenty, seven are “right to work” states; of the top thirty, thirteen are “right to work.”
Moreover, of the nine “right to work” states in the top twenty-five states in total GDP, all but Virginia rank 20 or more spots lower in per-capita GDP.
So there is a clear pattern here: the difference between the “right to work states” the “pro-labor” states is more pronounced in terms of per-capita GDP than in terms of total GDP: that is, any economic gains reflect population growth and not increased wealth across the population.
This difference has a corollary in both the lower average wages and the higher numbers of low-wage jobs in “right to work” states. The “average” worker may find it somewhat easier to find employment in at least some of the “right to work” states, but it may be more difficult to find employment that pays a living wage. Notably, among the “right to work” states, Virginia’s singularly high rank in both total GDP and per-capita GDP seems related to, if not directly reflective of, the large percentage of well paid and largely unionized federal workers in the densely populated northern counties surrounding Washington, D.C.
Most tellingly, between 2004 and 2010, there was almost no movement in the rankings by either total GDP or per-capita GDP. Michigan experienced a drop of several places in both categories, and three other pairs of states simply switched places in terms of total GDP. So, in terms of total GDP and especially in terms of per-capita GDP, there is very little evidence that the “right to work” states have made appreciable economic gains on the “pro-labor” states.
Previous posts in this series have included:
Part 1: Population Growth and Movement: https://academeblog.org/2013/04/03/2666/
Part 2: Immigration: https://academeblog.org/2013/04/21/right-to-work-by-the-numbers-part-2/
Part 3: Unemployment Rates, by State: https://academeblog.org/2013/04/30/right-to-work-by-the-numbers-part-3/
Part 4: Historic Highs and Lows in Unemployment, by State: https://academeblog.org/2013/05/05/right-to-work-by-the-numbers-part-4/
Part 5: Employment in Manufacturing: https://academeblog.org/2013/05/10/right-to-work-by-the-numbers-part-5/
Part 6: Loss of Employment in Manufacturing, before and during the Great Recession: https://academeblog.org/2013/07/21/right-to-work-by-the-numbers-part-6/
My other posts on “right to work” have included:
“Right to Work Isn’t Going Away, at Least for the Moment”: https://academeblog.org/2012/09/07/right-to-work-isnt-going-away-at-least-for-the-moment/
“Right to Work Is an Insult to Intelligence”: https://academeblog.org/2012/12/11/right-to-work-is-an-insult-to-intelligence/
“Right to Work Is an Insult to Intelligence, Addendum”: https://academeblog.org/2012/12/12/right-to-work-is-an-insult-to-intelligence-addendum/
“Right to Work Introduced in the Ohio House”: https://academeblog.org/2013/05/01/right-to-work-bills-introduced-in-ohio-house/