Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Jayajit Chakraborty, Ph.D.

Committee Member

M. Martin Bosman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Pratyusha Basu, Ph.D.


Hispanics, Migration, Meat industry, Environment


The decade of 1990-2000 saw a 53 percent increase in the number of Hispanics to 35.3 million, 20.6 million whom are of Mexican origin, signifying the fastest growing cohort in the U.S. today. This decade has also seen a surge in Hispanic migration to the Midwest region, particularly to communities with large meatpacking plants (LMPPs). Although overall literary consensus underscores the fact that this educationally disadvantaged ethnic group is over-represented in service and labor-based industries, few attempts have been made to empirically link the ir growing participation in high-risk industries like meatpacking with socioeconomic and occupational indicators of immigrant vulnerability.

To address this limitation, the thesis examines counties of Iowa and Nebraska that contain LMPPs with the objective of assessing: (1) Hispanic immigration and related socioeconomic changes in these counties; (2) the cumulative socioeconomic and occupational/industrial attributes of Hispanics living and working in these areas; and (3) the environmental justice implications of polluting meatpacking facilities. Statistical analyses of census data conducted to address the first objective indicate significantly higher Hispanic population growth in LMPP counties compared to those without LMPPs between 1990 and 2000. The results also provide evidence of increased Hispanics/nonHispanic socioeconomic disparities over the decade between LMPP and non-LMPP counties, particularly with income, language, and immigration. In all counties, Hispanic income and educational attainment levels are considerably lower than those for White residents. The second thesis goal incorporated worker injury rates, and animal and factory waste with socioeconomic factors to portray vulnerability in the workplace as well as the living space in an LMPP community. An integrated socio-industrial county ranking was developed to depict the aggregated ‘place vulnerabilities’ associated with social, economic, occupational and industrial influences. Finally, results from an environmental justice analysis conducted at multiple scales suggest that Hispanics, impoverished, and disabled individuals are disproportionately represented within the dangerous environs of slaughtering and meat processing facilities at the both the county and state levels. These revelations illustrate the significant strength of the U.S. segmented labor market, its detrimental effect on new arrivals, and the imbedded discrimination that continues to undermine social justice in our country today.