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The health of children hired to work on U.S. farms.

Villarejo D
NIOSH 1999 Sep; :1-42
The California Institute for Rural Studies, Inc. conducted a study with three interrelated projects to: (1) conduct a retrospective review of already completed interviews of hired farm workers conducted by the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NA WS) during the eight year period FY 1989-FY 1996; (2) conduct a retrospective review of reports of injury claims by child hired farm workers submitted to the workers Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California during the four-year period 1990-94; (3) conduct a field site investigation of a Florida community in which anecdotal evidence has demonstrated that children working as hired farm workers are an important part of the local labor force. The NA WS identified demographic information on hired farm workers, employment (duration and characteristics), wage rates, earnings and income, workers compensation insurance and employment based health insurance. The survey found that 6.3 percent of hired crop farm workers are children in the age range 14-17, although these figures underestimate the number of children who actually perform work as hired crop farm workers since NA WS excludes children younger than 14. A large share of hired crop farm workers are foreign-born. About three fifths of child hired crop farm workers are US citizens and just under one-third said they were undocumented. This contrasts sharply with the profile of adult crop farm workers, of which only one third are citizens and another one third are work-authorized aliens. However, a large share of child hired crop farm workers are unaccompanied, i.e. they are living and working on their own without supervision by a parent or guardian. Overall 37 of child crop farm workers were unaccompanied. This is significant because these children are less likely to receive adult advice and training to govern behavior. Crops, jobs, and tasks were similar for child hired crop farm workers as compared with adult workers, however few children performed semi skilled tasks such as tractor driver or machine operator or applied pesticides. Hourly earnings 0 child hired crop farm workers were only about 10% lower than for adults. However, owing to fewer days worked child workers had much lower personal income than adult workers. The retrospective review of claims data strongly support the conclusion that relatively few children are formally employed on farms in California. Moreover, of those who work as hired farm workers, relatively few experience serious workplace injuries resulting in death or permanent disability. California is one of the few states where child workers are required to have a work pemlit signed by a parent and by school authorities to be eligible for employment. Because of enforcement of this, California is more careful about hiring very young workers than other states. Also, California has a long and continuing history of a large surplus of adult workers as well as proximity to Mexico where many additional adult workers are eager to find jobs in the US. For this reason agricultural employers have most often been able to satisfactorily meet their labor needs by employing adults. Finally, data suggest that child workers in California have much less exposure to more dangerous jobs than is the case for adult workers. Proportionately fewer children are employed in such semiskilled jobs as tractor driver or machine operator. And very few children can be found applying pesticides. CIRS contracted with Aguirre International to send farm labor researchers to Florida to explore anecdotal evidence regarding that community's awareness of and capacity to address issues raised by the large number of child hired farm workers. The contractor reported an ethnographic community case study of the health risks faced by teenage migrant farmworkers.
Farmers; Agricultural workers; Children; Surveillance programs; Age factors; Age groups; Statistical analysis
Publication Date
Document Type
Final Grant Report
Funding Amount
Funding Type
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Special Populations; Work Environment And Workforce
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
California Institute for Rural Studies, Inc., 221 G Street, Suite 204, Davis, CA 95616
Page last reviewed: March 3, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division