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

WCPC Seminar Series on Poverty and Policy: Fall 2008

Presented by Anita Alves Pena
Assistant Professor of Economics
Colorado State University
Monday, October 27, 2008  3:00 - 4:00 p.m., questions / discussion until 4:30 p.m.
Parrington Hall Commons, Room 308
University of Washington


Dr. Anita Alves Pena is Assistant Professor of Economics at Colorado State University. Her research interests are in public sector economics, economic development, and labor economics, and her current research relates to undocumented and documented immigration, public policy, poverty, and agricultural labor markets. Dr. Pena received her Ph.D. in Economics from Stanford University in 2007, her M.A. in Economics from Stanford University in 2004, and her B.A. in Economics from the Johns Hopkins University in 2001. She has presented at numerous conferences and in academic settings. She currently teaches Ph.D. level Economics of Public Expenditure and undergraduate level Intermediate Microeconomics and Economics of Public Finance.

More information available at her website: lamar.colostate.edu/~aalves


U.S. farmworkers are paid on a piecerate or timerate basis. This paper studies the relationship between wage contract structure, legal status, and poverty outcomes. The study examines farmworkers using data from a representative survey of employed farmworkers which includes detailed information on legal status, including whether a worker is an illegal resident. Results suggest that while piecerate workers earn more per hour on average, they work fewer hours and ultimately face greater poverty risk than do their timerate counterparts. Furthermore, foreign-born workers, especially those who are illegal, are overrepresented in the piecerate subsample, suggesting that propensities to experience poverty may be related to interactions between wage contract structure and legal status. Analysis of both national and regional data support this contention, and the effect of piecerate pay on poverty is positive and correlated with being an immigrant.


See the slides from this presentation here.