Dangerous Wages

Hispanic workers suffer more fatal injuries on the job.

Hispanics are currently the largest minority group in the country, and the U. S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2050 or even earlier, Hispanics will account for one out of every four Americans. Why then, are more of them dying on the job than any other group of workers?

According to a report by a department of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 17.9 million Hispanics in the employed labor force in 2004 (the latest year for which there are statistics). The majority of those workers (55 percent) were born outside the United States, and about two in five employed Hispanics were not U.S. citizens. Hispanic workers tend to be disproportionately employed in higher-risk, lower-wage jobs. Some of the reasons for this are lower educational achievement, fewer job skills, and often the inability to proficiently speak and understand English—all situations that especially affect foreign-born Hispanic workers.

This disproportionate employment in higher-risk jobs is directly linked to higher numbers and rates of death on the job among Hispanics.

The number of fatal injuries to Hispanic workers rose from 533 in 1992 (when the BLS first conducted a census on fatalities in the workplace) to a high of 895 in 2001. During this time period, fatalities were declining for workers in general, but rising for Hispanic workers. Fatalities declined somewhat in 2002 and 2003, but were on the rise again in 2004. Nearly two-thirds of the fatalities between 1996 and 2004 involved foreign-born Hispanic workers.

Foreign–born Hispanic workers have been dying in everlarger numbers—the increase between 1996 and 2004 was 56 percent. About 60 percent of fatal work injuries among all foreign-born workers during that time period involved Hispanics, but only 48 percent of foreign-born workers at that time were Hispanic—leaving Hispanics dying from work-related injuries in numbers much higher than their share of the employed foreign-born population.

The rates of fatal injury for all Hispanic workers, however, are higher than for any other group. Work-related fatalities for all U.S. workers in 2004 was 4.1 per 100,000 workers, but for Hispanics it was 4.9 per 100,000. An all-time high of 6.0 Hispanic fatalities per 100,000 workers was recorded in 2001.


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