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

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

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.

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you'll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate