By on 4.16.20 in Carolina Demographics, Census 2020

How many farmworkers are in the United States?

There are about 3 million farmworkers in the United States: about two million are family farmworkers and another one million are hired farmworkers.

Do hired farmworkers count in the Census?

If a farmworker is living in a community on April 1, 2020, and that is their usual residence, meaning that it is the place where they live and sleep most of the time, they should be counted at their address in that community.

Nationally, most hired farmworkers (81%) are “settled,” meaning they work at one location within 75 miles of their home.

How does counting hired farmworkers impact your community?

Many rural US communities have high concentrations and farmworkers and immigrants. Researchers estimate that as many as half of the nation’s migrant and seasonal farmworkers were missed in the 1990 decennial census. Focused research in California following the 2000 decennial census suggested anywhere from 11% to 38% of farmworkers were not counted in the census. Achieving a complete and accurate count of all residents—including farmworkers—is vital for communities to ensure they receive appropriate political representation and state and federal funding.

Where should farmworkers be counted?

If a farmworker is living in a community on April 1, 2020, and that is their usual residence, meaning that it is the place where they live and sleep most of the time, they should be counted at their address in that community.

For more information, see the complete 2020 Decennial Census Residence Rules and Residence Situations.

What is the role of farmworker employers in having farmworkers counted in the Census?

Nationally, about 15% of farmworkers live in employer-sponsored housing. In these situations, the employer may be directly responsible for counting farmworkers. Workers’ group living quarters are typically counted through the Group Quarters Enumeration process.

What do we know about the more than 1 million hired farmworkers in the US?

While migrant workers who “followed the crop”—moving from state to state and working on different crops as seasons changed—were common in the past, these are now relatively uncommon. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor: more than 80% of hired farmworkers are “settled,” meaning they work at one location within 75 miles of their home; 10% are “shuttlers” who work at one location more than 75 miles from their home and may cross an international border; 5% are “follow the crop” migrants; and 3% are newcomers.

Most hired farmworkers are foreign-born (~75%) and about half of all farmworkers are not work-authorized. Additional details on farmworker demographics are available in the most recent National Agricultural Workers Survey data (2015-2016) from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Why are hired farmworkers missed in the census?

Hired farmworkers are a hard to count population for many reasons. Some of these reasons were outlined in a paper presented by the U.S. Census Bureau at the Joint United Nations Economic Commission for Europe/Eurostat Meeting on Population and Housing Censuses. They include:

  • Fear and mistrust: Many farmworkers are immigrants and may distrust governmental authorities. Nationally, about three-fourths of hired farmworkers are foreign-born; most (69%) were born in Mexico; 6% were born in Central America; and 1% were born in another country, including South America, the Caribbean, and Asia and the Pacific Islands.
  • Unconventional housing arrangements: Temporary, unconventional, or crowded housing arrangements are common among farmworkers. In 2016, 15% of farmworkers lived in employer-owned properties; this was more common in the Eastern migrant stream (24%), which includes North Carolina. Nationally, about one-third of farmworkers lived in “crowded” housing, and recent North Carolina-based research found poor housing conditions in rural farmworker labor camps.
  • Language barriers: 77% of hired farmworkers in 2016 reported that Spanish was the language they were most comfortable speaking; 21% reported English; and 1% reported an indigenous language. Most farmworkers reported limited English skills: 30% could not speak English at all and 41% could only speak English “a little”.
  • Literacy barriers: In addition to language barriers, many individuals are not fully literate. The average level of formal education completed by hired farmworkers in 2016 was the 8th Most farmworkers could not read English “at all” (41%) or could only read English “a little” or “somewhat” (30%).
  • Mobility: About 15-20% of farmworkers are migrant farmworkers. These individuals are highly mobile, which may lead to confusion about whether or where to fill out the decennial census.

Note: all 2016 statistics on hired farmworkers were drawn from this report.

Who should I contact with questions about farmworkers and the 2020 Census?

The answers to many frequently asked questions are available at the 2020 Census website.

Individuals who have questions about responding to the 2020 Census should call 844-330-2020 (from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. EST). If information is needed in non-English languages, please visit the 2020 Census Language Support Page for additional information.