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The effect of continuing education participation on agricultural worker outcomes (Pena 2011)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Pena, A. A. (2011). The effect of continuing education participation on agricultural worker outcomes. Washington, DC: United States Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of continuing education programs on agricultural worker earnings and employment outcomes.
  • The author used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of agricultural workers who participated in continuing education to a matched comparison group who did not. Using data from the United States Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Workers Survey, the author conducted statistical models to examine differences between the groups.
  • The study found a statistically significant relationship between continuing education programs and increased wages, additional weeks worked, and agricultural workers living above the poverty threshold.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention or include sufficient control variables. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the continuing education programs; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Features of the Study

The nonexperimental study compared the outcomes of agricultural workers who participated in continuing education to those who did not, using data from the United States Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS). The NAWS is a nationally and regionally representative survey of farmworkers who are employed in the U.S. The NAWS asked employed farmworkers if they had participated in the following continuing education programs: English/English as a Second Language (ESL), citizenship, literacy, job training, GED or high school equivalency, college/university, Adult Basic Education, Even Start, migrant education, or other education classes while in the United States.

The study pooled NAWS data from 1993 to 2006. Study participants included 35,540 farmworkers (8,453 who participated in continuing education programs and 27,087 who did not). The author used statistical models to examine the effect of the continuing education programs on earnings and employment outcomes. To account for possible selection bias, the author matched continuing education participants to similar nonparticipants using propensity scores developed from demographic information collected in the survey.

Findings

Earnings and wages

  • The study found that participation in any continuing education program was significantly associated with a five percent increase in wages for employed farmworkers. Specifically, participation in English and ESL programs, citizenship, job training, and college/university study were significantly associated with higher wages.
  • The study found that continuing education participants were significantly less likely (3%) than non-participants to be in poverty. Further, participants who were in English and ESL continuing education programs were significantly less likely (5%) to be in poverty than nonparticipants.

Employment

  • The study found that participation in any continuing education program was significantly associated with one additional week of work in agricultural employment per year and 1.6 weeks in non-farm work. Participation in English and ESL programs was significantly associated with two additional weeks of agricultural work and one additional week of work in non-farming employment

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The author created a matched group of non-participating workers to compare to continuing education participants. However, the author did not account for other factors that could have affected the difference between the treatment and comparison groups, such as pre-intervention wages. These preexisting differences between the groups—and not participation in continuing education—could explain the observed differences in outcomes. Therefore, the study is not eligible for a moderate causal evidence rating, the highest rating available for nonexperimental designs.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention or include sufficient control variables. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the continuing education programs; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

October 2020

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