Skip to navigation

Skip to main content

Rural Migration News

contact us

January 2008, Volume 14, Number 1

Hispanics, Health

Hispanics were 16 percent of the US metro population in 2005, but only six percent of the nonmetro population. The Hispanic population increased 20 percent in metro areas between 2000 and 2005, and 18 percent in nonmetro areas.

Percentage increases in the number of Hispanic residents of nonmetro areas are often very high. In 12 states, led by North Carolina and Delaware, the Hispanic population in nonmetro areas increased almost 500 percent between 1990 and 2000, and in another 12 states in the south and midwest, the nonmetro Hispanic population more than doubled. This growth continued between 2000 and 2005, as both large (Pennsylvania and Virginia) and small (New Hampshire and South Dakota) states experiencing nonmetro Hispanic population increases of over 50 percent.

Explanations for why Hispanics diffused throughout nonmetro areas in the 1990s center on legalization and employer recruitment. The first explanations is IRCA, which legalized about 2.3 million Mexicans in 1987-88. A second explanation notes that farmers as well as meatpackers and poultry processors recruited migrant workers, and after pioneer migrants were established, networks of friends and relatives soon brought additional migrants to areas with year-round jobs and a relatively low cost of living.

By 2000, over 60 percent of all workers in meat processing were in rural America, up from less than half in 1980, and the shift to rural areas helped to keep the real cost of meat processing workers flat at about $20,000 a year (1994 dollars).

Health Insurance. Health insurance is becoming a major issue for especially Democratic candidates for president. Wal-Mart, with 1.4 million employees the largest private employer in the US, has been a symbol of stingy health-care benefits, with fewer than half its employees covered. Wal-Mart employees earn an average $20,000 a year, giving many incomes low enough to qualify for Medicaid.

California and Maryland enacted laws to require Wal-Mart and other large private employers to provide more health insurance or pay a special payroll tax. These laws were overturned, but they prompted Wal-Mart to improve its health care plans. In Fall 2005, Wal-Mart introduced health insurance that costs as little as $11 a month, and in Fall 2008, 48 percent of its employees, mostly full-time workers, were enrolled in a Wal-Mart health care plan.

Wal-Mart is earning the respect of critics for making health insurance more affordable. Part-time employees are eligible after one year of employment, down from two, and 11 percent are enrolled in Wal-Mart health care plans. Covered employees pay $4 a month for 2,400 generic prescription drugs. Wal-Mart is opening weight-loss clinics in its 4,000 stores and may begin to sell health insurance to its customers.

Costco is considered the retailer with the best health care plan, offering individuals coverage for less than $500 a year. But Wal-Mart's new plans are comparable or better than those offered by Home Depot and Target.

Michael Barbaro and Reed Abelson, "A Health Plan for Wal-Mart: Less Stinginess," New York Times, November 13, 2007.

Subscribe via Email

Click here to subscribe to Rural Migration News via email.