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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