About the National Agricultural Workers Survey

The U.S. Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) is an employment-based, random-sample survey of U.S. crop workers that collects demographic, employment, and health data in face-to-face interviews.  The survey began in Federal Fiscal Year (FY) 1989; from that beginning through FY2014, more than 61,000 agricultural workers have been interviewed. The primary purposes of the NAWS are to monitor the terms and conditions of agricultural employment and assess the conditions of agricultural workers.  The survey also generates information for various Federal agencies that oversee agricultural worker programs. A full description of the survey's sampling design is available in the Statistical Methods of the National Agricultural Workers Survey. This document and other information on the NAWS methodology, as well as information on the limitations of the survey, are available on the NAWS website (https://www.doleta.gov/agworker/naws.cfm).

The NAWS is a survey of hired workers who are currently employed in crop and crop-related work.  To be interviewed, workers must be hired by an eligible establishment and working at an eligible task.  Eligible establishments are those classified in the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) as Crop Production (NAICS code 111) or as Support Activities for Crop Production (NAICS code 1151).  NAICS 111 comprises establishments such as farms, orchards, groves, greenhouses, and nurseries that are primarily engaged in growing crops, plants, vines, or trees and their seeds.  NAICS 1151 includes establishments primarily engaged in providing support activities for growing crops.  Examples of support activities include supplying labor, aerial dusting or spraying, cotton ginning, cultivating services, farm management services, planting crops, and vineyard cultivation services.

Eligible tasks include work in all phases of crop production (pre-harvest, harvest, and post-harvest), as well as supervising workers, operating machinery, and packing crops.  Agricultural workers who pack crops, however, are interviewed only if the packing facility at which they are employed is on or adjacent to the sampled crop producer, and the facility is owned by and primarily packs crops for that producer.

The NAWS sampling universe does not include:

  • Persons employed at eligible establishments who do not perform crop-related work, such as secretaries or mechanics, unless such workers also perform crop-related work; and
  • Agricultural workers with an H-2A visa (a temporary-employment visa for foreign agricultural workers).

Both migrant and seasonal agricultural workers are sampled in the NAWS.

The NAWS is unique for its broad coverage of the characteristics of hired agricultural workers and their dependents and its nearly year-round interviewing schedule.  Data are collected throughout the year, over three cycles, to reflect the seasonality of agricultural production and employment. The NAWS is an establishment survey which means that:  1) workers are sampled at their workplaces; 2) only currently employed persons are sampled; and 3) data is collected through face-to-face interviews with agricultural workers.

The use of an employer-based sample rather than a household-based sample increases the likelihood that migrant workers will be interviewed in the NAWS. Multi-stage sampling accounts for seasonal and regional fluctuations in the level of farm employment.  To capture seasonal fluctuations in the agricultural work force, the sampling year is divided into three interviewing cycles.  For each cycle, there are six levels of selection:

  • region;
  • single counties or groupings of counties called farm labor areas (FLA), which constitute the primary sampling unit;
  • county
  • ZIP Code region;
  • employer; and
  • respondent.

The NAWS has benefited from collaboration with multiple federal agencies, which continue to share in the design of the questionnaire. Information provided through the NAWS informs the policies and programs of the many federal government agencies that protect and provide services to migrant and seasonal agricultural workers and their dependents.