Drinking Patterns Among Seasonal Agricultural Workers, 1982

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Sciences


Julia Loughlin


alcoholism, blacks, rural, drug abuse, family structures, migrants

Subject Categories



If there is one single theme that appears consistently in the literature on seasonal agricultural workers, it is the "documented" evidence of the extensive consumption of alcohol in this population (Coles, 1971; G/FLRPB, 1973, 1974; Johnson, 1980; League of Women Voters, 1974; Nelkin, 1970; N. Y. S. Health and Research Council, 1983; Reul, 1976; Young, 1978). Additionally, the migrant workforce is seen as being affected by the spread of urbanization, mechanization, economic fluctuations, seasonal uncertainties and a decrease in family groups resulting in a population composed predominantly of single men.

This qualitative study examines a sample of seasonal farmworkers in the potato fields and apple orchards in Upstate New York. In conjunction with levels of alcohol consumption, the social and physical structure in each camp, and the crewleader system, are investigated. Attention is also given to how migrants learn to drink and how excessive bouts with alcohol are controlled within the subculture. The notion of the visible invisible alcohol abuser is addressed as a means of gaining greater clarity for the concept of binge drinking. A further innovation is the investigation of the impact family members and children have on the workers' pattern of drinking. Results indicate that in those cases where family members are present, there are lesser degrees of involvement with alcohol. Further, when a child is also sharing living space with adult workers, there is an impact on the level of drinking.

This study provides a detailed description of the drinking patterns of seasonal farmworkers utilizing times, amounts and choices of beverage as well as the apparent connection between crops harvested and amount of alcohol consumed. The findings do not support the picture of the drunken migrant but a group of binge drinkers whose level of alcoholic intake is reported to be greater in their home base than while on the season.

These results indicate the importance of family, marital status, education and crop differentiation as variables when studying alcohol use among seasonal agricultural workers.


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