North Carolina’s Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Populations: the 1990s
Migrant and seasonal farmworker populations (MSFWs), which consist primarily of Latinos, make up a significant though transient minority population in many eastern North Carolina counties. The data used to produce these maps are based on an estimation methodology that relies on extant national databases and surveys of migrant and seasonal farmworkers coupled with agricultural workforce demand models. Details of the methodology employed to produce the MSFW enumeration data are found in the publication Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Enumeration Profiles Study—North Carolina, which was prepared for the Bureau of Primary Health Care’s Migrant Health Program.
The MSFW population in this map set does not include those engaged in forestry and fishing. It should also be noted that MSFWs and resident Latinos are not necessarily mutually exclusive populations—there may be some degree of overlap. For example, some resident Latinos may work only seasonally or they may move from one county to the next during the course of the agricultural season. The MSFW estimated enumerations are not included in the denominator (i.e., the total, resident population) and so the resulting percentages are really ratios that permit comparisons among the counties.
Eastern North Carolina possesses the highest densities of estimated MSFWs for the state. Four out of the five highest-ranking counties are in this region, with Greene County’s MSFW reaching a value over 20%. A northern tier of counties, with relatively high MSFW values, extends from the east to the west. This pattern distinguishes the eastern region from the rest of the state and it also contrasts it to the distribution of this region’s resident Latinos, whose geographic distribution is less unique within the state.
In most cases the seasonal influx of relatively large non-resident populations into counties with relatively small resident populations can have a large impact on the local infrastructure in many ways. On the positive side, counties that are primarily agricultural are dependent on the MSFW population to keep this sector of their local economy viable. Part of the money earned by agricultural laborers is circulated back into the local economy with attendant multiplier effects and, therefore, its potential for taxation. On the negative side, a large portion of MSFWs is uninsured and can potentially place a heavy demand on the local community health infrastructure. This infrastructure may not, at the time, be very well developed or fully capable of handling a relatively large culturally and economically distinct mobile population.