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Poverty, Legal Status and Pay Basis in U.S. Agriculture

work, Entrepreneurship, and finance

U.S. farmworkers are paid on a piecerate or timerate basis. This paper studies relationships between wage contracts, legal status, and poverty using a representative survey of employed farmworkers which includes detailed information on legal status, including whether a worker is illegal. Results indicate that while piecerate workers earn more per hour on average, they work fewer hours and face greater poverty risk than their timerate counterparts. Furthermore, foreignborn workers, especially those who are illegal, are overrepresented in piecerate positions, and national and regional analysis shows that the effect of piecerate pay on poverty is positive and correlated with being foreign-born.

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Anita Alves Pena
Publication Date
January, 2009