- University of Notre Dame
- Department of Economics
- Graduate Fellow (2023-2024)
- American Labor at its Peak: What Did Unions Do?
Henry Downes is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Economics at Notre Dame. He is an applied microeconomist, with interests in the intersections of labor economics, health economics, demography, and economic history. His dissertation sheds new light on the growth and unexpected impacts of the American labor movement in the 20th century. Using novel data constructed from historical sources on local union membership, he explores the connection between unionization and increases in fertility during the Baby Boom. He tests several economic mechanisms that plausibly relate union membership to fertility, including increased wages, improved job security, and enhanced non-wage benefits for unionized workers. In related work, he draws on the newly-constructed union membership estimates to present evidence on the drivers, persistence, and spatial growth dynamics of organized labor during this key period in American history.
More broadly, Downes’ research examines the ways in which economic security relates to health outcomes. In work published in the Journal of Public Economics (2022), he estimates the effect of receiving temporary financial assistance on access to and utilization of healthcare for housing-insecure families.
While at Notre Dame, Downes has served as a research assistant in the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities and as an instructor for courses in statistics and principles of microeconomics. He has presented his work at the Young Economist Symposium at Yale, the Social Science History Association meetings, the Midwest Economic Association meetings, and the World Cliometric Congress at Trinity College Dublin. Previously, Downes earned a B.A. (2015) in Economics at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.