Data Briefs

Immigration in America, explained through data visualization

Working Immigrants at Risk of COVID-19

Date: April 3, 2020

Many immigrants serve as frontline medical and essential workers in our nation’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. These roles often put them at a much higher exposure to disease and a higher risk of infection. Using measures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the New York Times’ recent data interactive highlights the occupations most at risk of coronavirus infection by taking into account the worker’s physical contact with others and on-the-job exposure to disease and infection. Using these same measures, we examine how many of these jobs are also jobs in which immigrant workers tend to work at higher rates.

In particular, healthcare workers on the front lines, from physicians to nurses to medical aides, take on the highest risk of infection given their necessary proximity to patients and potential exposure to the virus. NAE has already shown how over 16 percent of all healthcare workers in the United States are immigrants. Looking closer, we find that many specific healthcare occupations have even higher shares of foreign-born workers. For instance, over 36 percent of home health aides, 28 percent of physicians, and 22 percent of nursing assistants are immigrants. However, it is not only healthcare workers who are continuing their work. Other occupations deemed “essential” by local or state governments in order to maintain a basic functioning of society, such as grocery workers, delivery people, drivers, and auto repair workers are also disproportionately immigrant. While these jobs are not normally exposed to disease, in the current crisis, leaving their homes to work to keep the rest of America running carries a greater risk of infection.

The tool below allows you to explore over 450 occupations, their risks of infection, and the shares of workers who are foreign-born for each. Each dot represents an occupation and the size of the dot corresponds to the number of workers in that profession. The horizontal axis measures proximity—how close a worker is to other people while at work. For example, dots on the far-left are typically not close to others while those on the far right are often very close to others during the work day. The vertical axis represents exposure to disease and infection, with those at the top exposed every day to disease. Last, the color of the dot represents the share of workers who are foreign-born. The darker the blue, the higher the share of foreign-born workers in that occupation.

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