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The National Agricultural Workers Survey

Chapter 1: Birthplace, Employment Eligibility, and Migrant Types

U.S. CROP WORKERS' NATIONAL ORIGIN, ETHNICITY AND RACE; FOREIGN-BORN WORKERS' FIRST ARRIVAL TO THE U.S.; WORK AUTHORIZATION; INTERNATIONAL & DOMESTIC MIGRANTS

Summary of Findings

  • Seventy-five percent of the workers were born in Mexico.
  • Fifty-three percent of all respondents were not authorized to work in the United States.
  • Foreign-born newcomers comprised 16 percent of the hired crop labor force.

Place of Birth

Foreign-born workers comprised a large share of the hired crop labor force in fiscal years 2001-2002. Among all crop workers, 78 percent were born outside the United States: seventy-five percent were born in Mexico, two percent were from Central American countries, and one percent of the workers were from elsewhere (fig. 1.1).

 

Figure 1.1  Place of Birth.  Note: Sum of portions is not equal to 100 percent because of rounding.

Mexico equals 75 percent
United States equals 23 percent
Central America equals 2 percent
Other equals 1 percent

Figure 1.1 Place of Birth. Note: Sum of portions is not equal to 100 percent because of rounding.

Workers born in Mexico were from almost every state of their native country. The largest share (46%) were from the traditional sending states of west central Mexico: Guanajuato, Jalisco, and Michoacan. However, an increasing share were from non-traditional states. For example, the share of Mexican crop workers from the southern part of Mexico, comprising the states of Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Puebla, Morelos and Veracruz, doubled from nine percent in 1993-1994 to 19 percent in 2001-2002.

Ethnicity and Race

The NAWS uses the following response categories for ethnicity: Mexican-American, Mexican, Chicano, Puerto Rican, other Hispanic, and not Hispanic or Latino. In 2001-2002, 83 percent of the crop workers identified themselves as members of a Hispanic group: 72 percent as Mexican, seven percent as Mexican-American, one percent as Chicano, and three percent as other Hispanic. Only 16 percent of U.S. crop workers self identified as belonging to an ethnic group that was not Hispanic or Latino. Ethnicity labels, however, are somewhat arbitrary as they are based on multiple characteristics such as cultural heritage, nationality, and racial background. For example, 17 percent of the U.S.-born crop workers self identified as Mexican-American and four percent as Mexican.

Race is a difficult concept for many foreign workers, who often do not use the same concepts in their home countries. Using the Office of Management and Budget's standard categories for race, crop workers were asked to describe themselves as White; Black or African American; American Indian, Alaskan Native or Indigenous; Asian; Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander; and other. Forty-seven percent of the respondents answered "other" to this question, while 41 percent self identified as White; eight percent as American Indian, Alaskan Native or Indigenous; four percent as Black, and less than one percent each as Asian and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Among those who answered "other", nearly all (99%) identified themselves as members of a Hispanic group: 85 percent self identified as Mexican; nine percent as Mexican-American, four percent as other Hispanic, and one percent as Chicano.

Foreign-born Workers' First Arrival to the United States

NAWS interviewers ask the month and year each foreign-born crop worker first entered the United States. While not a measure of continued residence, data from this question provide important, albeit partial, information about foreign-born workers' migration history as well a measure of the stability of the farm labor market.

On average, foreign-born crop workers first came to the United States ten years prior to being interviewed. Large shares of the foreign-born, however, had either first entered the United States less than one year ago (17%), or more than 14 years ago (29%) (fig. 1.2).

Figure 1.2  Foreign-born Workers: Years Passed Since First U.S. Arrival.  Note: Sum of portions is not equal to 100 percent because of rounding.

Number of Years

1 equals 17 percent
1 dash 2 equals 16 percent
3 dash 4 equals 9 percent
5 dash 9 equals 17 percent
10 dash 14 equals 13 percent
15 plus equals 29 percent

Figure 1.2 Foreign-born Workers: Years Passed Since First U.S. Arrival. Note: Sum of portions is not equal to 100 percent because of rounding.

The period since first arrival varied by birthplace. Crop workers born in Mexico had, on average, first come to the United States ten years ago, compared to five years ago for workers born in Central American countries (fig. 1.3).

Foreign-born newcomers play a particularly significant and growing role in the hired crop workforce. Defined as persons who were in the United States for the first time and who had been in this country for less than a year when they were interviewed, their contribution to the crop workforce increased from 10 percent in 1993-1994 to 16 percent in 2001-2002. Because foreign-born newcomers differ in many respects from other crop workers, they are discussed as a separate group in several parts of this report.

Figure 1.3 Years since first U.S. arrival by birthplace.

Average Number of years

Mexico equals 10

Central America equals  5

Figure 1.3 Years since First U.S. Arrival by Birthplace.

Employment Eligibility

Foreign-born workers may be authorized to work in the United States under various visa categories. While employment eligibility, like all information obtained in the NAWS, is self reported, the NAWS seeks to determine whether foreign-born respondents are authorized to work in the United States by asking a series of related questions that produces a picture of their eligibility status. The questions address the foreign-born worker's current status (citizen, legal permanent resident, border crossing-card holder, applicant for residency, temporary visa holder, or unauthorized) and, when applicable, the date and program under which the individual applied for legal status. The responses to these questions are examined to determine whether the interviewee is eligible to work in the United States. Each foreign-born respondent is also directly asked if he/she has authorization to work in the United States.

In 2001-2002, 53 percent of the hired crop labor force lacked work authorization, down from 55 percent in 1999-2000. Another 25 percent of the crop workers in 2001-2002 were U.S. citizens, 21 percent were legal permanent residents, and one percent were employment-eligible on some other basis (e.g., the application for residency, via family sponsorship, was pending) (fig 1.4). Among citizens, 91 percent were born in the United States, and nine percent were naturalized.

Figure 1.4 US Employment Eligibility

Unauthorized equals 53 percent
Citizen equals 25 percent
Legal permanent resident equals 21 percent
Other work authorized 1 equals percent

Figure 1.4 U.S. Employment Eligibility.

Migrant Types

The definition of "migrant" varies among the multitude of federal government agencies and programs that provide services to migrant and seasonal farm workers. In the NAWS, migrants are defined as persons who travel at least 75 miles during a 12-month period to obtain a farm job.[5] Overall, migrants comprised 42 percent of crop workers in 2001-2002, an 11 percent decrease from 1993-1994 when they were 47 percent.

The migrant labor force demonstrates various migration patterns. Some migrants do no U.S. farm work at their home base, but travel 75 miles or more to do farm work in a single U.S. location and work only within a 75-mile radius of that location. In the NAWS, these workers are referred to as shuttle migrants. Workers who travel to multiple U.S. farm locations for work are called follow-the-crop migrants. Follow-the-crop migrants might or might not do U.S. farm work at their home base. These two migration patterns can be further divided between international and domestic migrants, depending on whether they crossed international borders in the 12-months prior to their NAWS interview.

International Migrants

Among international migrants, foreign-born newcomers are an important group to consider: in 2001-2002 they made up 16 percent of all hired crop workers, 22 percent of the foreign-born, 38 percent of the migrants, and 72 percent of all workers who were in their first year of U.S. farm employment. At the time of the interview, these workers have often not demonstrated a migration pattern within the United States, therefore they are not classified in this report as shuttle or follow-the-crop migrants. However, they are referred to as migrants in the NAWS by virtue of their having traveled at least 75 miles in their journey to the United States. As discussed in the previous section, the share of foreign-born newcomers, among all hired crop workers, increased by 60 percent between the periods 1993-1994 and 2001-2002. Over the same periods, the share of foreign-born newcomers among migrants increased by 69 percent (table 1.1).

Other international migrants include shuttle and follow-the-crop (FTC) migrants. The share of international shuttle migrants was stable over the ten-year period: they were 13 percent of all workers and 29 percent of the migrants in 1993-1994, and 13 percent of all workers and 30 percent of the migrants in 2001-2002. The share of workers who were international follow-the-crop migrants, on the other hand, decreased substantially: they went from being five percent of all workers and ten percent of migrants in 1993-1994, to just two and five percent, respectively, in 2001-2002.

Domestic Migrants

Domestic migrants also include shuttle and follow-the-crop migrants. Unlike international migrants, domestic migrants had not left the United States in the 12 months preceding their interview. Like international migrants, the overall and relative shares of domestic migrants changed between the periods 1993-1994 and 2001-2002. Domestic shuttle migrants comprised nine percent of all crop workers and 18 percent of migrants in the earlier period; their share decreased to six percent of all workers and 13 percent of the migrants in 2001-2002. The share of domestic follow-the-crop migrants also decreased between the two periods. They comprised nine percent of all workers and 20 percent of migrants in 1993-1994, but were six percent of all and 13 percent of migrants in 2001-2002.

Table 1.1 Change in Migrant Types: 1993-1994 and 2001-2002 Compared

 

1993-1994

2001-2002

Change in

 

Percent of

Percent of

Percent of

Migrant Type

All

Migrants

All

Migrants

Migrants

Total

100%

100%

100%

100%

-

Foreign-born newcomer

10%

23%

16%

38%

+ 69%

International shuttle

13%

29%

13%

30%

+ 3%

International FTC

5%

10%

2%

5%

- 50%

Domestic shuttle

9%

18%

6%

13%

- 28%

Domestic FTC

9%

20%

6%

14%

- 30%

Non Migrant

53%

-

58%

-

-

Note: Sum of portions is not equal to 100 percent for all categories because of rounding.


Introduction

Table of Contents

Chapter 2