Farm work may be a hard, undesirable job but it is one that’s in high demand. Mexico’s dramatic decline in fertility rates and its investments in rural education has led to a reduction in the available workforce. Further complicating matters is the current U.S. political environment, in which unresolved policy questions about immigration and border enforcement could further diminish the labor pool. Indeed, Taylor and his colleagues posit that we may be approaching the end of the plentiful supply of labor in U.S. farming that has fueled the system for so long.
The data suggest that the pickers will get their wish: Children of farm workers don’t tend to become farm workers, in large part because most would rather do anything else. Taylor comments that “Workers move out of agriculture typically as soon as they can, as immigrants choose to work in the farm sector only when their options are more limited.” Even unauthorized workers spend less time in agriculture and more time in other sectors of the economy the longer they are in the U.S., he explains.