Determinants of Health Insurance Status for Children of Latino Immigrant and Other US Farm Workers

Children of U.S. farm workers are three times more likely to be uninsured than other U.S. children and almost twice as likely to be uninsured as either children in poverty or Latino children, nationally. Data from a national study of farm workers suggest their children face particular barriers to health insurance that need to be addressed through insurance reform and outreach programs. 

Children who have health insurance usually have better access to health care. This study, based on data from the U.S. Department of Labor's 2000–2002 National Agricultural Workers' Survey, examined demographic and social characteristics of farm workers for insights into why so many of their children are not insured.   

Key Findings:

  • One-third of the 3,316 farm worker parents surveyed said their children lacked health insurance.
  • Children were less likely to be insured if their surveyed parent was: a migrant worker; older than 30 years old; at or below the federal poverty line; not born in the United States; less able to speak English; had received less than a sixth grade education; lived in the Southeast or Southwest; and had lived in the United States for less than five years.
  • What did not matter was the parent's sex, marital status, immigration status or literacy level; or the number of children living in the household.
  • Parental Latino ethnicity was somewhat significant.

This analysis is limited by survey data which were observational; why children are not insured can only be hypothesized, not determined. Also, the survey did not allow parents to answer the insurance question differently for multiple children. Finally, no information was collected on the health of individual children which could affect the availability of insurance.

Despite data limitations, the authors say their findings implicate important policies, such as outreach efforts to ensure farm workers know why and how to enroll their children; making forms less complicated; making enrollment accessible in rural areas; and improving portability and reciprocity of benefits among states, to eliminate geographic coverage barriers for migrants.  Finally, the study points out farm worker children in the South and West are even less likely to be covered, which other studies have shown is true of all children in those regions, suggesting eligibility guidelines for certain insurance programs may need to be revised.