Despite rhetoric that public sector unions are partially responsible for the health of state and local pension systems, little concrete evidence exists regarding the role unions play in influencing the generosity of their retirement benefits. Using a panel of state teacher pension plans, we find credible robust evidence linking stronger teachers' unions to more generous benefits. For an average teacher in a strong union state compared to a teacher in a weak union state, our results imply that the differential in the present value of benefits earned each year paid by the plan sponsor is $2,400 per member.
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