About half of hired farm workers and half of hotel maids are foreign born, and half of them are unauthorized. Immigrants account for 13 percent of our entire population, but a third of all workers hold low-paid, often injury-prone jobs hidden from the public like food prep and material packaging. But only 15 percent of low-paid jobs are those that engage with the public, such as retail sales.
I estimate that a typical immigrant with little formal education has a career path that is fraught with twice the risk of work injury as the career path of a poorly educated native-born American.
Orrenius and Zavodny, 2009
Our results indicate that differences in observable characteristics, such as English ability and education, play important roles in the tendency of immigrants to work in riskier jobs. Workers’ ability to speak English is inversely related to their industry injury and fatality rates, indicating that immigrants who speak English fluently work in safer jobs. The CDC (2008) attributed the high number of work-related deaths among foreign-born Hispanics in part to inadequate knowledge of safety hazards and inadequate training and supervision of workers, which are often exacerbated by language and literacy problems.
In 2013, Hispanic workers represented about 15% of FTEs in all industries and just over half were foreign born. However, in the construction industry, they represented 25% of all FTEs and almost three-fourths were foreign born. In our study, we found high fatal TBI [traumatic brain injury] rates among Hispanic and foreign-born workers, separately. When fatal TBI rates among Hispanics were analyzed by nativity, the foreign-born rate was signiﬁcantly higher than the native-born rate.