Living standards in 1900

Not relevant to anything, but fascinating.

Infant mortality at the turn of the century was high. One in five babies in Homestead, Pennsylvania died before reaching his or her Þrst birthday. Adult men died, too, like flies (and adult women faced substantial risks in childbirth). Accident rates in the factory were such as to leave 260 injured per year–30 dead–out of a total population of 25,000 and a steel mill working population of 5,000. Each year, five percent were injured enough to miss work for some time (although only one percent per year were permanently disabled), and 1/2 percent per year were killed in factory accidents.

You can do the math. Start to work for U.S. Steel when you are 20. There is one chance in seven that the factory will kill you before you reach 50, and almost one chance in three that the factory will disable you. Is it any wonder that life insurance–disability insurance–group lodges that provide benefits (because the company provides few)–loom so large in American working class consciousness at the turn of the century? And is it any wonder that the Þrst component of the welfare state put into place, in many parts of the United States, was workmen’s compensation? Of course, in 1910 Homestead (or in 1930 Detroit, or in Los Angeles today) the most arduous and difficult jobs were done by minorities and immigrants: in 1910 Homestead by Slavs, in 1930 Detroit by Blacks, and in 2000 Los Angeles by Hispanics. At the micro level, such groups are concentrated in the most arduous and lowest-paid jobs because they are poor, because they have limited other options.