Anderson says
the number of construction
workers without health
insurance is unacceptable.

NEW YORK CITY-As the city’s construction industry workforce continues to diversify in terms of race and location, inequalities in health care coverage are coming to a head, new data shows. According to a New York Building Congress analysis of 2010 US Census Bureau data, 75% of New York City’s construction industry workforce lives in the five boroughs, with Queens and Brooklyn leading the way. But in an industry defined by middle-class outer-borough residents, nearly half are lacking health insurance.

The analysis, based on personal responses to the Census Bureau survey, measures both union and non-union labor, as well as management positions, architects, engineers, office support, service workers and “off-the-books” workers. The Building Congress survey found that out of the 224,500 men and women in the construction industry, whites accounted for 40% of the total workforce (88,700 people), followed by Hispanics at 36% (807,000 workers), Black non-Hispanic at 14% (31,600 workers) and Asians at 9% (21,200 workers). In addition, non-US citizens account for 39% of the pool, and 56% reported that they speak a language other than English in their homes.

Of the construction industry workers who lived in New York City in 2010, 63,600 were Queens residents, 53,700 lived in Brooklyn, followed by 24,200 from the Bronx, 14,400 from Staten Island and 12,300 in Manhattan. Based on the heavy concentration of residents in the outer-boroughs, the analysis found that the construction industry is “maintaining its reputation as a haven for middle class employment,” with 49% of all workers living in households with annual incomes between $50,000 and $125,000 annually.

In turn, almost half of all construction industry workers—49%—lacked health insurance in 2010, up 4% from 45% in 2009. In addition, 55% of construction trades workers were uninsured in 2010, up from 53% from the previous year, a 2% increase. In contrast, 25% of white-collar workers reported having no health insurance, which has inched up by 5% from 2009.

New York Building Congress president Richard T. Anderson says the city’s construction industry has been and “remains a vital source of meaningful employment opportunities for recent immigrants and residents of all educational backgrounds,” but the health care issue remains troubling. “It is disconcerting, however, to find that the number of workers who go without health insurance – which was unacceptably high to begin with – continues to rise, especially among the skilled trades,” he says, in a statement.

But overall, Anderson comments: “These data demonstrate the important role the industry continues to play, especially during periods of high unemployment for the city as a whole and the middle class in particular.”