1703a Disproportionately at risk: immigrant workers in the u.s. construction industry

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Abstract

Immigrant workers play a significant role in the U.S. construction industry. This report summarises our recent findings about disparities in demographics, employment characteristics, health and healthcare, and disproportionate risk of work-related injuries among these vulnerable workers. The statistics are obtained from several large national datasets in the U.S., including the Current Population Survey, American Community Survey, National Health Interview Survey, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, and the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. Data from the Mexican Migration Project, an ongoing study of Mexican migration to the U.S., are also included. SAS 9.4 is employed for the data analysis.

The foreign-born population in the U.S. grew rapidly through mid-2000s, but slowed down since the Great Recession. Only 5% of current foreign-born construction workers arrived during the period of 2011 and 2013, whereas 10% entered between 2005 and 2007. In 2015, about 2.4 million construction workers, or nearly a quarter of the industry workforce, were foreign-born; of which 84% were born in Latin American countries. It is estimated that nearly 75% of workers migrating from Mexico to the U.S. were undocumented or had false documentation on their first trip.

In general, immigrant construction workers are younger, less educated, and disproportionately work in high-risk occupations. These workers also lag behind other workers in income, health insurance coverage, and health services.

Work-related death rates for immigrant construction workers are consistently higher than other workers. However, this trend is not found in nonfatal injuries. Underreporting in nonfatal injuries is suggested. There are sizable disparities between immigrant construction workers and their native-born counterparts in the U.S. Given the rapid changes in the economy and the dangers associated with construction work, enhanced safety and health surveillance and intervention for immigrant construction workers is urgently needed.

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