09-10 Jon Agnone


DISSERTATION FELLOWSHIP RECIPIENT: 2009-10

Jon Agnone received a Ph.D. from the Department of Sociology at the University of Washington in 2010. His dissertation examines the impact of labor unions on individual wealth accumulation in the U.S., and his research interests are in social movements, political sociology, stratification, labor unions, environmental sociology, methods and statistics. He is also the recipient of the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies Best Graduate Student Paper Award on his WCPC funded research paper. His paper is available here.


WCPC Funded Research:

Racial Inequality in Wealth: Do Labor Unions Matter? 
Faculty Supervisor:  Margeret Levi, Department of Political Sciene

My dissertation research combines my interests in stratification, social movements and labor by examining the impact of union employment on the well-documented racial wealth gap. Extant scholarship overwhelmingly focuses on black/white wealth inequality, considered to be the result of racial discrimination in the housing market, differences in saving and investment behavior, status attainment, and life course processes. A separate area of scholarly inquiry highlights the importance of labor unions in raising wages, improving the working environment, and increasing access to pensions. Since blacks and Hispanics experience greater wage returns under labor union contracts than do whites—helping to narrow the wage gap between minorities and whites—it is possible that labor union employment may also ameliorate the well-documented black/white wealth gap and the largely unexplored Hispanics/white wealth gap. Using panel data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79), I test competing theories of racial wealth inequality between blacks, Hispanics and whites, and contribute to the development of the field by examining the effect of union employment on the wealth accumulation of minorities compared to whites. Even though union representation has decreased since the mid-1950s, unions promote wealth equality by improving access to fringe benefits, and increasing the accumulation of pension wealth and home ownership due to the increased wage and non-wage packages of union employees. Representing the nexus of several areas of inquiry, this project offers theoretical and empirical contributions of interest to scholars of wealth and poverty, labor unions, and race and inequality. The implications of this research also have policy significance, especially in today’s economic climate.