July 2017, Volume 23, Number 3
The National Agricultural Workers Survey found that California has the highest share of foreign-born crop workers: 90 percent. Since most foreign-born workers are unauthorized, this means that a higher share of California crop workers are unauthorized, 56 percent in 2013-14, than in the US, 47 percent. Another 27 percent of California crop workers were legal immigrants and 16 percent were US citizens by birth or naturalization.
Almost all California crop workers, 84 percent, did farm jobs from one location in 2013-14. Seven percent, usually legal immigrants, shuttled between jobs in California and homes in Mexico. Only five percent were follow-the-crop migrants, with two or more US farm jobs at least 75 miles apart.
California crop workers are aging and settling: their average age is 39, and a third were 44 or older in 2013-14. Average educational levels are rising slightly and are now eight years; 27 percent of California crop workers had graduated from high school in 2013-14. Almost half of California farm workers are married parents and 10 percent are unmarried parents, while 30 percent are single without children.
Recent data suggest more youth under 24 and more workers brought to farms by FLCs, who employed 38 percent of California crop workers in 2015-16. A quarter of workers were with their current employer less than a year, and hourly earnings were $10.83, compared $12.44 in the Farm Labor Survey for California field workers in 2016. Some 46 percent of California crop workers in 2015-16 reported working more than eight hours a day.
Average days worked on a farm in 2015-16 was 213. With median earnings of about $18,500, this suggests $88 a day (8.1 hours at $10.83). The share of workers interviewed while harvesting was one-sixth in 2015-16, compared to a third who were in semi-skilled jobs such as equipment operator. Some 80 percent of California crop workers in 2015-16 said they planned to continue working in agriculture at least five years, and 35 percent said they could find a nonfarm job within a month.
Over 30 percent of California crop workers had family incomes below the poverty line, and 61 percent reported that someone in the family received means-tested public assistance benefits in 2015-16. The poverty rate has been stable, but the share of families receiving some public assistance is rising, suggesting the presence of US-born children who are eligible for benefits in families with unauthorized parents.