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The National Agricultural Workers Survey

Findings from the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) 2001 - 2002
A Demographic and Employment Profile of United States Farm Workers

Chapter 4: Labor Force Participation

HOW U.S. CROP WORKERS SPENT THEIR TIME OVER THE YEAR AND HOW LONG THEY EXPECT TO REMAIN IN FARM JOBS

Summary of Findings

  • Seventy-two percent of the workers had one farm employer in the previous 12 months.
  • The number of farm workdays in the previous year increased with the number of U.S. farm employers and by years of U.S. farm experience.
  • The majority of the workers (72%) said that they expected to continue doing farm work for at least five years.

Number of U.S. Farm Employers in Previous 12 Months

NAWS interviewers record each respondent's work and non-work periods for the 12 months preceding their interview. In 2001-2002, nine out of ten of all crop workers, including foreign-born newcomers, reported having worked for one or two U.S. farm employers[11] in the previous 12 months (fig 4.1).

Figure 4.1  Number of U.S. Farm Employers in the Previous 12 Months.  Note: Sum of portions is not equal to 100 percent because of rounding.

1 farm employer equals 72 percent
2 farm employers equals 18 percent
3 farm employers equals 6 percent
4 farm employers equals 2 percent
5 plus farm employers equals 1 percent

Figure 4.1 Number of U.S. Farm Employers in the Previous 12 Months. Note: Sum of portions is not equal to 100 percent because of rounding.

Measuring Labor Force Participation

Common employment statistics include the average number of weeks and average number of days persons in the labor force were employed over a one-year period. When measuring such statistics on the hired crop work force, it is important to recognize the relatively large share of crop workers (16%) who were both new to U.S. farm work and new to the United States. These are the foreign-born newcomers who were first discussed in Chapter 1. As these workers can be interviewed just days after their first arrival to the United States, as a group they report fewer days of farm work compared to all other workers: in 2001-2002 foreign-born newcomers averaged 90 days of farm work, compared to 190 days for other workers. Conversely, foreign-born newcomers spent an average of 32 weeks outside of the United States, compared to four weeks for all other workers. Because of the recency of their arrival in the United States, foreign-born newcomers are excluded from the base of statistics reported in this section.

Time Employed and Not Employed

Crop workers were employed on U.S. farms in 2001-2002 an average of 34 and one half weeks (66% of the year) and in non-farm activities for a little more than five weeks (10 percent of the year). They were in the United States but not working for approximately eight and a half weeks (16% of the year), and were outside of the United States for nearly four weeks (7% of the year) (fig. 4.2).

Figure 4.2  Time Employed and Not Employed.  (Excluding foreign-born newcomers) Note: Sum of portions is not equal to 100 percent because of rounding.

Farm work, 66 percent
Non-Farm work, 10 percent
In the United States, not working, 16 percent
Outside of the United States, 7 percent

Figure 4.2 Time Employed and Not Employed. (Excluding foreign-born newcomers)
Note: Sum of portions is not equal to 100 percent because of rounding.

Time in farm and non-farm jobs, as well as time outside the United States, varied by legal status, place of birth and age.[12] U.S. citizens were employed 32 weeks in farm jobs, eight weeks in non-farm jobs, were not employed for 12 weeks, and spent less than one week outside of the country. Compared to citizens, legal permanent residents were employed more weeks in agriculture (35), but only half as many weeks in non-farm employment (4). Legal permanent residents were not working for nine weeks while in the United States and spent four weeks outside of the country. Unauthorized workers (excluding foreign-born newcomers) obtained the most weeks of farm employment (36) [13] and, like legal permanent residents, had four weeks of non-farm employment.[14] These unauthorized workers were not employed for six weeks while in the United States and spent the same number of weeks outside of the country (table. 4.1).

Table 4.1 Weeks of Activity by Legal Status (excluding foreign-born newcomers)

 

Unauthorized

Legal permanent resident

Citizen

Activity

Farm work

36

35

32

Non-farm work

4

4

8

In U.S. not working

6

9

12

Outside U.S.

6

4

0

Excluding foreign-born newcomers, 70 percent of the workers were born in Mexico, 27 percent in the United States, two percent in Central American countries, and one percent of the workers were from other countries. Of these groups, workers from Central America were employed the most weeks in U.S. farm jobs. Averaging 40 weeks, they worked four more weeks than the Mexico-born workers, who averaged 36, and nine more than the U.S.-born, who averaged 31. Workers from Central America experienced the fewest weeks not working while in the United States (five vs. seven and 12 for the Mexico- and U.S.-born, respectively) and were also outside of the United States for fewer weeks than the Mexico-born (two vs. five, respectively).

The youngest and oldest NAWS respondents were employed the fewest weeks in farm jobs and also experienced the most weeks not working while in the United States. Fourteen to 17 year-old respondents averaged just 14 weeks of farm work and did not work for fully half the year (27 weeks). This same group, however, averaged nearly six and a half weeks in non-farm jobs. The next age cohort (18- and 19-year-olds) worked 29 weeks in farm jobs, six in non-farm jobs, was in the United States but not working for 14 weeks, and spent less than one week outside of the country.

Workers in all age cohorts between 20 and 64 years had similar distributions of weeks employed, not employed, and weeks out of the country. They were employed in farm jobs for 34 to 37 weeks, in non-farm jobs for three to seven weeks, were not employed while in the United States for seven to nine weeks, and were out of the country for three to five weeks. Respondents 65 years and older were employed 32 weeks in farm jobs and four weeks in non-farm jobs. This same cohort averaged 14 weeks not working while in the United States and three weeks out of the country (table 4.2).

Table 4.2 Weeks Employed and Not Employed by Age Group
(excluding foreign-born newcomers)

Age Group

Total

14-17

18-19

20-24

25-34

35-44

45-54

55-64

65+

Percent of

Crop Workers

100%

3%

4%

17%

31%

23%

13%

7%

2%

Activity Weeks

Farm work

34

14

29

36

35

34

37

36

32

Non-farm work

5

6

6

5

6

5

5

3

4

In the United States, not working

9

27

14

8

7

8

7

9

14

Outside of the United States

4

5

<1

3

4

5

3

4

3

Note: Sum of weeks is not equal to 52 for all age groups because of rounding.

Farm Workdays

Using information recorded in the 12-month retrospective work history collected by the NAWS, it is possible to approximate the number of farm workdays each respondent had in the preceding year.[15] Excluding foreign-born newcomers, crop workers averaged 190 days of farm employment in the previous 12 months and 77 percent reported having worked in agriculture at least 100 days.[16] The number of farm workdays, however, varied by legal status. Unauthorized workers, excluding foreign-born newcomers, averaged 197 days, compared to 185 days for the authorized.[17] These unauthorized workers were more likely than authorized workers to have worked at least 200 days (58% vs. 50%) (fig. 4.3). Among authorized workers, permanent residents reported having worked an average of 195 days; citizens reported an average of 175.

Figure 4.3  Farm Workdays by Legal Status (excluding foreign-born newcomers).  Note: Sum of portions is not equal to 100 percent for all categories because of rounding.

Number of Days

All
1 - 99 equals 23 percent
100 - 199 equals 23 percent
200 - 249 equals 18 percent
250 plus equals 36 percent

Authorized
1 - 99 equals 24 percent
100 - 199 equals 25 percent
200 - 249 equals 16 percent
250 plus equals 34 percent

Unauthorized
1 - 99 equals 21 percent
100 - 199 equals 21 percent
200 - 249 equals 21 percent
250 plus equals 37 percent

Figure 4.3 Farm Workdays by Legal Status (excluding foreign-born newcomers).
Note: Sum of portions is not equal to 100 percent for all categories because of rounding.

Farm Work Experience

Excluding foreign-born newcomers[18], farm workers interviewed in 2001-2002 had an average of 12 years of U.S. farm experience. Nearly half (48%) had worked less than eight years in farm jobs. Forty-one percent had worked more than ten. The number of years varied by legal status. While 62 percent of the authorized respondents had worked more than ten years in farm jobs, only 15 percent of the unauthorized had done so (fig. 4.4). In 2001-2002, 37 percent of the respondents who had more than ten years of U.S. farm work experience had obtained legal status via the Special Agricultural Worker provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

Figure 4.4  Farm Work Experience by Legal Status (excluding foreign-born newcomers). Note: Sum of portions is not equal to 100 percent for all categories because of rounding.

Number of Years

All
0 -1 equals 8 percent
2 -4 equals 24 percent
5 - 10 equals 26 percent
11 -20 equals 23 percent
21 plus equals 18 percent

Authorized
0 -1 equals 7 percent
2 -4 equals 14 percent
5 - 10 equals 18 percent
11 -20 equals 32 percent
21 plus equals 30 percent

Unauthorized
0 -1 equals 10 percent
2 -4 equals 38 percent
5 - 10 equals 37 percent
11 -20 equals 12 percent
21 plus equals 3 percent

Figure 4.4 Farm Work Experience by Legal Status (excluding foreign-born newcomers).
Note: Sum of portions is not equal to 100 percent for all categories because of rounding.

Farm workdays also increased with the number of employers and years of experience. Again excluding the foreign-born newcomers, workers who had one employer averaged 183 days, while workers with two employers averaged 200 days and those with three or more employers averaged 215. Respondents who had less than two years of farm work experience (8%) averaged 68 days in farm jobs in the previous 12 months. Workers with 21 years or more of experience (18%), on the other hand, averaged 219 days (table 4.3).

Table 4.3 Farm Workdays by Number of U.S. Farm Employers and Years of U.S.
Farm Experience (excluding foreign-born newcomers)

Percent of
Crop Workers

Mean
Farm Workdays

Number of U.S. Farm Employers

100%

( )

     1

71%

183

     2

18%

200

     3 +

11%

215

Years of U.S. Farm Work Reported

100%

( )

     less than two years

8%

68

     2 - 4

24%

175

     5 - 10

26%

202

     11 - 20

23%

212

     21 +

18%

219

Note: Sum of portions does not equal 100 percent because of rounding.

Plans to Remain in Farm Work

The majority of all crop workers[19] (72%) expect to remain in farm jobs more than five years.[20] Four percent stated that they would continue working in agriculture for less than one year; 12 percent said for two to three more years; five percent stated that they would continue in agriculture four to five years; and seven percent were unsure. Future plans and expectations varied by legal status. A larger share of citizens (21%) expected to leave farm work within three years, compared to permanent residents (9%) and unauthorized workers (16%). Seventy-nine percent of the permanent residents stated that they would continue working in agriculture as long as they were able, compared to 64 percent of the unauthorized and 57 percent of the citizens.

When asked if they believed they could obtain a non-farm job within one month, 42 percent said "no," 37 percent said "yes," and seven percent were unsure. Citizens (69%) were twice as likely as permanent residents (32%) and nearly three times as likely as unauthorized workers (23%) to believe that they could obtain a non-farm job within a month.


Chapter 3

Table of Contents

Chapter 5