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The National Agricultural Workers Survey

Chapter 2: Demographics, Family Size, and Household Structure


Summary of Findings

  • Farm workers were young: their average age was 33, and half were younger than 31.
  • Seventy-nine percent were men.
  • Fifty-seven percent were living apart from all nuclear family members when they were interviewed.


Seventy-nine percent of all crop workers, and 90 percent of the foreign-born newcomers, were men.[6] Men were more likely than women to be unauthorized (56% vs. 39%) and were less likely than women to be U.S.-born (20% vs. 33%) (fig. 2.1).

Figure 2.1  Legal Status by Gender.  Note: Sum of portions is not equal to 100 percent because of rounding.

women equal 39 percent
men equal 56 percent

Legal Permanent Resident
women equal 24 percent
men equal 21 percent

Naturalized Citizen
women equal 3 percent
men equal 2 percent

U.S. Born Citizen
women equal 33 percent
men equal 20 percent

Figure 2.1 Legal Status by Gender. Note: Sum of portions is not equal to 100 percent because of rounding.


U.S. crop workers are relatively young: in 2001-2002 the average age for both men and women was 33. Half of all workers were less than age 31, and a small percentage were younger than 18 (6%) or older than 54 (7%) (fig. 2.2).

Figure 2.2 Age distribution of hired crop workers.

Age Cohort

14 dash 17 equals 6 percent
18 dash 19 equals 5 percent
20 dash 24 equals 20 percent
25 dash 34 equals 30 percent
35 dash 44 equals 20 percent
45 dash 54 equals 12 percent
55 dash 64 equals 6 percent
65 plus equals 1 percent

Figure 2.2 Age Distribution of Hired Crop Workers.

Age varied by legal status, place of birth and, among foreign-born workers, by the number of years since first arriving to the United States. In 2001-2002, unauthorized workers were, on average, ten years younger than authorized workers (28 and 38, respectively). Eighty percent of the unauthorized workers were less than 35, compared to only 40 percent of the authorized workers (fig. 2.3). Workers from Central American countries were, on average, younger than Mexico- and U.S.-born workers (28 vs. 32 and 36, respectively). Among U.S.-born workers, African Americans were the oldest (average age was 43), followed by Whites (36), and Hispanics (33). Among foreign-born workers, newcomers, were, on average, ten years younger than those who had arrived at least one year prior to being interviewed (24 vs. 34) (table 2.1).

Figure 2.3  Age Distribution by Legal Status.  Note:  Sum of portions is not equal to 100 percent because of rounding.

Age Cohort

14 - 17 equals 4 percent
18 - 19 equals 3 percent
20 - 24 equals 10 percent
25 - 34 equals 23 percent
35 - 44 equals 29 percent
45 - 54 equals 20 percent 
55 - 64 equals 9 percent
65 plus equals 3 percent

14 - 17 equals 8 percent
18 - 19 equals 7 percent
20 - 24 equals 28 percent
25 - 34 equals 37 percent
35 - 44 equals 12 percent
45 - 54 equals 4 percent 
55 - 64 equals 3 percent
65 plus equals 0 percent

Figure 2.3 Age Distribution by Legal Status. Note: Sum of portions is not equal to 100 percent because of rounding.

Table 2.1 Average Age by Select Demographic Characteristics

Percentage of


Average Age

Hired Crop Worker Population




All Crop Workers






     All Foreign-born






     Authorized Foreign-born



     Unauthorized Foreign-born









     Arrived more than year ago






     Born in Mexico



     Born in Central American country









     All U.S.-born



          African American









Marital Status and Family Type

Nearly three out of five (58%) crop workers interviewed in 2001-2002 were married, a larger share than in 1993-1994 (52%). Thirty-eight percent had never been married and five percent were either separated, divorced, or widowed. Women were slightly more likely than men to be married (59% vs. 57%, respectively).

Fifty-one percent of all farm workers, married or single, were parents, compared to 41 percent in 1993-1994. A little more than a third (37%) were single and without children, 12 percent were married without children, and six percent were unmarried parents (fig. 2.4).

Figure 2.4 Family Type.

Married parent equals 45 percent
Single, no children equals 37 percent
Married, no children equals 12 percent
Unmarried parent equals 6 percent

Figure 2.4 Family Type.

In 2001-2002, parents employed in U.S. crop agriculture had an average of two children. Ninety-six percent of the children were minors (under the age of 18). Nearly a third of the parents (31%) had one child (fig. 2.5).

Figure 2.5  Number of Children of Hired Crop Farm Workers

Number of children

1 equals 31 percent
2 equals 33 percent
3 equals 20 percent
4 equals 10 percent
5 equals 3 percent
6 equals 2 percent
7 plus equals 1 percent

Figure 2.5 Number of Children of Hired Crop Farm Workers

Household Structure

In the NAWS, crop workers who are living apart from all nuclear family members (parents, spouse, and children) at the time of the interview are defined as "unaccompanied"; those who are living with at least one nuclear family member are "accompanied."[7] In 2001-2002, 57 percent of all crop workers were unaccompanied. The majority of the unaccompanied (61%) were single workers who did not have children; 31 percent were parents and eight percent were married but without children.

Two-thirds (66%) of all parents and 71 percent of childless married workers were accompanied. Of the parents and married workers who were unaccompanied, almost nine out of ten (87%) had at least one child and/or a spouse living in Mexico; eight percent had nuclear family members in other parts of the United States, and four percent in other countries.

Living with nuclear family at the time of the interview varied by gender and legal status. Women were more than twice as likely (75%) as men (35%) to be accompanied. Among the parents, nearly all (97%) of the mothers were accompanied, compared to 55 percent of the fathers. Similarly, among childless married workers, 95 percent of the women and 62 percent of the men were living with their spouse at interview time. Several factors may be related to these differences: female farm workers were more likely than males to be U.S.-born (33% vs. 20%), and non-migrant (71% vs. 55%). Parents who had authorization to work in the United States were twice as likely to be accompanied as parents who lacked authorization (86% vs. 43%, respectively).

In 2001-2002, farm worker parents had an average of two minor children. Sixty-one percent of the parents were living with all of their minor children when they were interviewed; 37 percent were living apart from all of their minor children, and two percent were living with some. The likelihood of parents living away from all of their minor children increased with family size: parents who had five or more minor children were 33 percent more likely to live away from all of their children than were parents who had only one minor child (44% vs. 33%, respectively) (fig. 2.6).

Figure 2.6  Cohabitation of Farm Worker Parent and Minor Children.

Number of Children

Parent live with all minor children
1 equals 67 percent
2 equals 63 percent
3 equals 55 percent
4 equas 52 percent
5 equals 49 percent

Parent lives away from all minor children
1 equals 33 percent
2 equals 35 percent
3 equals 43 percent
4 equals 45 percent
5 equals 44 percent

Figure 2.6 Cohabitation of Farm Worker Parent and Minor Children.

Among parents, those most likely to be living apart from their minor children were men, migrants, Mexicans, and unauthorized workers. Among the migrant parents who were living away from all of their children, 85 percent were international migrants and 15 percent were domestic migrants (table 2.2).[8]

Table 2.2 Migrant Types: Crop Workers Living Apart from their Children

Migrant Type

Percent of Migrants

Total Migrants






















Chapter 1

Table of Contents

Chapter 3