Raw Data: Field Worker Wages Since the Great Recession

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Apropos of nothing in particular, I got curious this morning about illegal immigration and field workers. About half of all field workers are undocumented, so if there’s been a surge of illegal immigration lately, as some have speculated, you’d expect to see the wages of field workers decline. But how would you measure that?

I’m not sure what the best approach is, but I decided to compare the wages of field workers to the wages of all nonsupervisory workers. Here’s what I got:

Relative wages for field workers were flat all through the aughts, as illegal immigration was climbing, and declined a bit during the Great Recession. However, since 2012 they’ve risen three percentage points. In 2016, field workers earned nearly 57 percent of the average nonsupervisory wage.

Based on this, I’m willing to bet that that illegal immigration hasn’t surged over the past couple of years. Just the opposite, maybe, which would be consistent with the rise in field worker wages since 2012.

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In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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