Introduction Farm work is labour intensive, physically demanding and incurs a high risk of injury. Indigenous farmworkers from southern Mexico and Central America increasingly work on US farms. Few studies have examined the working conditions of farm workers in relation to both indigenous and documentation status because of the lack of available data. The aim of this study was to identify characteristics of farm workers at increased risk of adverse health outcomes.
Methods The National Agricultural Workers Survey has collected data thrice annually from agricultural crop workers in the U.S. since 1989. Data for the most recent period, 2008–12 (n = 8898), was used to compare characteristics associated with adverse health and safety conditions. Specifically we examined demographic and job characteristics, working conditions, wages and access to health care and insurance among US-born and Mexican and Central American-born farmworkers.
Descriptive analysis and regression models included indigenous and documentation status, and was done separately for males and females.
Results 63% of US-born male farm workers were employed year round compared with 37% of undocumented indigenous males. US-born males (41%) and documented Latino males (48%) worked semi-skilled tasks compared with 23% of undocumented indigenous males who worked pre-harvest (33%) and harvest tasks (31%). Earnings were higher per hour for US-born males and females compared with all other groups $9 and $8, respectively. >80% of undocumented workers did not have health insurance compared with 34% of US-born females. In general documented farm workers and non-Indigenous fared better than undocumented and Indigenous, and on most measures undocumented Indigenous workers fared worst.
Discussion We highlight disparities in modifiable occupational health risk factors across groups of farm workers that are associated with increased risks of work-related injury and poor health.
Efforts to increase documentation of foreign-born farmworkers will likely result in beneficial health and safety outcomes.
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