A BuzzFeed News analysis has found that, in recent years, the risk of dying on the job has been growing for Latino construction workers at rates that far outstrip the rest of the industry. Fueled by the economic recovery and a nationwide construction boom, Latinos are dying in greater numbers and at increasingly disproportionate rates.
After the housing bust bottomed out in 2010, the fatality rate among Latino construction workers rose by nearly 20%. For non-Latinos, the fatality rate has dropped by more than 5%.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), between 2010 and 2013, the number of deaths among Latinos in the construction industry rose from 181 to 231. The number of deaths also rose in the industry overall, from 774 to 796. But Latinos account for this rise entirely: During the same period, deaths for non-Latino construction workers fell from 593 to 565. (The numbers for 2013 are preliminary, and are likely to go up across the board when BLS revises them in the spring.)
Over the last decade, construction work has gotten safer. The industry’s overall fatality rate dropped from 11.5 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2004 to 8.6 in 2013. Although Latinos die at higher rates than non-Latinos, they have also benefitted from this increase in safety: In the same period, their fatality rate dropped from 13.5 deaths per 100,000 workers to 9.8.
But that trend has begun to reverse in recent years — for Latinos only. As more workers have joined the construction workforce in the ongoing boom, Latinos have crowded into the more dangerous segments of the industry, with increasingly fatal results.
For its own calculations, BLS uses data on the number of hours worked within a certain industry or population. However, this data is not broken down by race or ethnicity. For this reason, BuzzFeed News used BLS’s estimates on the number of employees of different ethnicities within the construction industry. While these methods yield different numbers, they are closely aligned over time — in other words, both hours-based and employee-based calculations reveal the same trends overall.
Several experts and advocates interviewed
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