Is it a Jungle Out There?: Meat Packing, Immigrants and Rural Communities
Artz, Georgeanne M.
Over the past 45 years, meatpacking has shifted from a predominantly urban to a predominantly rural industry. Meatpacking plants can represent a significant share of a rural community’s employment. As a traditional employer of immigrants, these plants can also alter significantly the demographic composition of a rural community. These changes have led to numerous controversies regarding whether these plants impose social or economic costs on their host communities. This study uses comments culled from various media to identify the most prominent controversies, including whether meatpacking presence leads to local language problems, social service expenses, special needs schooling or displacement of native-born citizens. These controversies can be recast as hypotheses that can be subjected to empirical tests. We show that the meat processing industry has had large impacts on the demographic composition of rural communities and their schools including increases in populations requiring specialized services. However, there is no evidence that the industry increases per capita government expenditures suggesting that rural communities trade off the economic benefits of having these large employers against the costs of accommodating the needs of the new residents.
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