Working in a Grocery Store Is a Pretty Safe Job (Updated)

A plexiglass shield protects this Ralph's checker from customers who might have COVID-19.Kevin Drum

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There’s something weird here:

Next to health-care providers, no workforce has proved more essential during the novel coronavirus pandemic than the 3 million U.S. grocery store employees who restock shelves and freezers, fill online orders and keep checkout lines moving….Some liken their job to working in a war zone, knowing that the simple act of showing up to work could ultimately kill them. At least 41 grocery workers have died so far. They include a Trader Joe’s employee in New York, a Safeway worker in Seattle….

In the country as a whole, there have been 22,000 deaths among 330 million people. That’s 67 per million. If you adjust for age, there have been about 4,400 deaths among those 20-64 years old. There are 200 million people in that age group, so that’s 22 deaths per million.

According to the Post, there have been 41 deaths among 3 million grocery store workers. That’s only 14 per million.

Any way you cut it, being a grocery store worker seems to be a pretty safe job. That doesn’t make much sense, but the numbers are what they are. Have I made a mistake somewhere?

UPDATE: It turns out that grocery workers skew very young. If you analyze them more carefully by age group, their death rate is 14 per million vs. 9 per million expected. That is, about 50 percent higher than the general population. Details here.

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FACT:

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Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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