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Is It a Jungle Out There?: Meat Packing, Immigrants and Rural Communities

Listed author(s):
  • Artz, Georgeanne M.
  • Jackson, Rebecca
  • Orazem, Peter

Over the past 45 years, meatpacking has shifted from a predominantly urban to a predominantly rural industry. Meatpacking plants can represent a significant share of a rural community's employment. As a traditional employer of immigrants, these plants can also alter significantly the demographic composition of a rural community. These changes have led to numerous controversies regarding whether these plants impose social or economic costs on their host communities. This study uses comments culled from various media to identify the most prominent controversies, including whether meatpacking presence leads to local language problems, social service expenses, special needs schooling or displacement of native-born citizens. These controversies can be recast as hypotheses that can be subjected to empirical tests. We show that the meat processing industry has had large impacts on the demographic composition of rural communities and their schools including increases in populations requiring specialized services. However, there is no evidence that the industry increases per capita government expenditures suggesting that rural communities trade off the economic benefits of having these large employers against the costs of accommodating the needs of the new residents.

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Paper provided by Iowa State University, Department of Economics in its series Staff General Research Papers Archive with number 12966.

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Date of creation: 01 Aug 2010
Publication status: Published in Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, August 2010, vol. 35 no. 2, pp. 299-315
Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:12966
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Iowa State University, Dept. of Economics, 260 Heady Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1070

Phone: +1 515.294.6741
Fax: +1 515.294.0221
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  1. Milton Madison & James MacDonald & Michael Ollinger, 2000. "Technological Change and Economies of Scale in U.S. Poultry Slaughter," Working Papers 00-05, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  2. Orazem, Peter F. & Wohlgemuth, Darin & Huang, Tzu-Ling, 2002. "The Causes And Consequences Of Rural Immigrant Population Growth, 1950-1990," 2002 Annual meeting, July 28-31, Long Beach, CA 19750, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
  3. Milton Madison, 2005. "Technological Change and Economies of Scale in U.S. Poultry Processing," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 87(1), pages 116-129.
  4. James M. MacDonald & Michael E. Ollinger, 2005. "Technology, Labor Wars, and Producer Dynamics: Explaining Consolidation in Beefpacking," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 87(4), pages 1020-1033.
  5. Georgeanne M. Artz & Peter F. Orazem & Daniel M. Otto, 2007. "Measuring the Impact of Meat Packing and Processing Facilities in Nonmetropolitan Counties: A Difference-in-Differences Approach," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 89(3), pages 557-570.
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