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Migration Decisions, Farmwork, and Familism among Latino Emancipated Migrant Farmworker Youth: A Mixed-Methods Approach

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Introduction. The United States (U.S.) agricultural workforce has been predominantly Latino (80%) and traditionally adult men (72%) from Mexico (68%) (National Agricultural Workers Survey, 2016). However, youth – ages 14 to 17 – and – ages 18 to 21 – account for 1% and 9 % of the total farmworker workforce respectively (NAWS, 2016). There are three distinct groups of Latino farmworker youth: a) rural youth employed on their family farms; b) immigrant youth who move and work with their migrant farmworker parents/families; and c) unaccompanied youth also known as Emancipated Migrant Youth (EMY), who come to the U.S. on their own, without their parents, to work in agriculture (Arcury, Rodriguez, Kearney, Arcury, Quandt, 2014; Peoples et al., 2010). To date, little is known about Latino EMY – in terms of their migration and entrance into the U.S. agricultural workforce and the motives behind that decision.
Purpose of present research. Demanding kin-responsibilities and expectations have been related with ambivalence thus leading to contradictory role clashes (Pillemer & Suitor, 2004). Guided by an ambivalence framework (Luescher & Pillemer, 1998; Smelser, 1998), the current research employed a mixed-methods exploratory sequential design (QUAL → quan; Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011) to build a better understanding of EMYs’ decision to migrate to the U.S. and join the U.S. agricultural workforce. Concretely, the goal was to achieve an understanding of the realities underlying EMYs’ decision to work and live in the U.S. The qualitative component also informed the data collection of the quantitative component (i.e., Study 2) (Greene et al., 1989).
Method. In this exploratory sequential design emphasis was placed on the qualitative component of the design (i.e., Study 1) which used a phenomenological approach to gain a “deeper understanding of the nature or meaning of our everyday experiences” (Van Manen, 1997, p. 9). Study 1 consisted of in-depth interviews with Latino EMY (n = 20; 100% male, 50% from Mexico, 50% from Guatemala, 50% H2A temporary visa holders, 50% undocumented, aged 15 to 20) to better understand the decision-making processes (i.e., personal, family values, financial need) underlying their migration to the U.S. and entrance into farmwork.
Results. Thematic analysis highlighted four major themes (1) “It was the best thing I could do,” (2) “It was my decision,” (3) “Farmwork just made sense,” (4) “This is just temporary.” In Study 2, a separate sample of EMY (n = 36; 100% male, Mage = 17.81, SD = 1.24) provided quantitative data to examine the associations on concepts from Study 1; that is, among EMY’s decision to migrate to the U.S., entrance into U.S. farmwork, familism, frequency of financial remittances, and family financial dependency. Study 2 showed no associations among the variables of interest.
Conclusion. These findings are novel and highlight the need to conduct research on this vulnerable subgroup of Latino farmworker youth. Even though EMY may be longing for family physical closeness, the financial duty toward the family and kin-responsibilities may precede and dictate the length of these youth’s stay and work in the U.S.


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