Survey of Hispanic Dairy Workers in New York State

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New York State is the third largest dairy state in the United States based on milk production (behind California and Wisconsin). Since the mid-1990’s, the trend toward hiring Hispanic workers on New York’s larger dairy farms (usually 400 cows or more) has steadily increased and currently the trend is moving to smaller dairies (in the 50-100 cow range). The purpose of this study is to create a demographic profile of Hispanic dairy workers on New York farms and to gain an understanding of the workers’ perceptions regarding their employment situation. The information was collected in personal interviews from 111 Hispanic workers on 60 farms, and included compensation and other information collected from employers. Three- fourths of the surveyed workers are from Mexico and about one-fourth from Guatemala. They are typically young (84% were 30 years old or younger) and almost always male. The workers are not highly educated, only 51% have attended no more than primary school. One-fourth completed secondary school, including 2% who attended or graduated from a university. Hiring Hispanic dairy workers is still a relatively new practice, as 72% of the employers reported that they hired their first Hispanic employee since January 2000. In addition, 73% of the surveyed employees said their tenure with the farm had been two years or less. On average, surveyed workers had three U.S. employers since they began working in this country. Starting wages reported by employers for their Hispanic employees ranged from $5.50 to $10.00 per hour, with a mean of $6.87. Current wages range from $5.50 to $11.50, with an average wage of $7.51. Hispanic dairy employees received a variety of employer provided benefits, including: housing with water, heat and electricity (91%), transportation (52%), telephone in residence (51%), satellite television (47%), and space for a garden (63%). On average, the Hispanic dairy workers surveyed worked 62 hours per week and only 16% worked less than 51 hours per week. These workers also said they would like to work an average of 66 hours per week if possible and that they would look for other employment if they could not work at least 55 hours. Both workers and employers identified challenges in a cross-cultural employment situation. Employees indicated that their top three greatest challenges were crossing the border, language and lack of freedom to do what they want. Employers, on the other hand, indicated that the top three obstacles were language, cross-cultural understanding and immigration issues.

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R.B. 2005-02


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Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University


Applied Economics


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