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ECU Labor Day Report Shows Importance Of Work And Unionization

East Carolina University

The latest report from East Carolina University's Center for Survey Research reveals higher levels of personal well-being among people who are employed. 

People who are employed are more likely to report feeling more connected to others, lower levels of depression and greater optimism about the future, results from the nationwide survey show. 

Sociologist at ECU Melinda Kane is one of the report's principal investigators. She says these findings suggest employment means more to people than simply a source of income.

"It gives you meaning to how you spend your day. It gives you routines to your day. It gives you connections to other people, beyond your family, for example," Kane said. "It means more than just money. It’s larger than that for people. It helps define your identity."

The report also reveals a relationship between union membership and economic well-being.  For instance, those who report living in a union household were more likely to own their homes and were more likely to spend 30 percent of their income or less on housing. 

"Living in a union household has these implications for housing and housing affordability at the same time when union rates are only at ten percent," Kane said. 

A Pew Research Center poll shows union membership rates have been steadily declining. Last year, 10.7 percent of Americans were union members, down from about 20 percent in the early 1980s.

The Labor Day report is the second part in a four-part series from the Life, Liberty and Happiness Project'snationwide survey. 

Valerie Crowder was a reporter for Public Radio East.