The Outside Of Town: An Analysis Of Housing Conditions For Latino Farm Worker Children In Washington and Their Impact on Educational Success

Griff Lambert

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This report examines the relationship between Latino farmworkers’ housing conditions and the educational success of their children. What are the dynamics of this relationship in Washington State? How is health impacted by housing, and how does health impact educational outcomes?

Methods:

I concurrently examined scholarly literature and reports documenting the national prevalence of health problems and other risks affecting education that result from substandard housing for Latino farm worker children.  I then attempted to locate these trends within the State of Washington, using State data and reports, qualitative research conducted by Beacon Development Group in several farm worker communities; and interviews I conducted with school officials from these areas.

Findings:

My results indicate that housing does influence the educational success of Latino farm worker children, and health acts as an important bridge between these two variables.
★ Health: Many Latino farm worker households in Washington live in substandard housing that poses a variety of structural and environmental concerns, and presents many health risks.  These include lead poisoning, respiratory illness (such as asthma), pesticide exposure, and an increased spread of disease.  These problems not only inhibit the children’s academic success by keeping them home from school sick, but certain risks (such as lead poisoning and pesticide exposure) can permanently harm mental functioning.
★ Other Factors: There are other features of Latino farm worker households that inhibit the academic success of Latino farm worker children, as well.  Not only does overcrowding pose a physical health risk, it also creates a disruptive environment for completing schoolwork.  The residential instability of many seasonal Latino farm worker children causes them to miss a lot of school, creates a difficult environment for learning English, and makes it difficult for them to connect with both teachers and peers.  The geographical isolation of many farm worker communities also makes it more difficult for farm worker children and parents to integrate into the school community.

Recommendations: We need to view housing as an investment in a child’s education, and therefore, invest in it the same we do education:

  • Promote publicly funded housing (which carries greater standards and enforcement).
  • Expand opportunities for permanent farm worker housing (such as the Opportunities Industrialization Center’s (OIC) rental credits).
  • Promote the integration of Latino farm worker children into school communities.  Increase their access to activities and services, which their housing can often inhibit.

Community Partner:

Barbara Guzzo of Beacon Development Group.

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