Restructuring of the US Meat Processing Industry and New Hispanic Migrant Destinations



Findings from the 2000 US Census indicate high rates of Hispanic population increase beyond urban areas and traditional immigrant-receiving states. The diversity of new destinations raises questions about forces attracting migrants to rural areas and links between economic structural change and Hispanic population growth. Our conceptual framework applies dual labor market theory to the meat processing industry, a sector whose growing Hispanic labor force offers an illustrative case study for analyzing how labor demand influences demographic change. We document the industry's consolidation, concentration, increased demand for low-skilled labor, and changing labor force composition over three decades. We then position meat processing within a broader analysis that models nonmetropolitan county Hispanic population growth between 1980 and 2000 as a function of changes in industrial sector employment share and nonmetro county economic and demographic indicators. We find that growth in meat processing employment exhibits the largest positive coefficient increase in nonmetro Hispanic population growth over two decades and the largest impact of all sectors by 2000.