Ethnic and gender differences in farm tasks and safety practices among rural California farm youth

Stephen A Mccurdy, Jonathan A. Kwan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Agricultural work is hazardous and is common among rural youth, especially those living on farms or ranches. Previous work has shown differences in farm work and injury patterns between boys and girls, but little data exist addressing ethnic differences. This study examined ethnic and gender differences in farm tasks, safety attitudes, and use of protective measures among rural California youth working on farms or ranches. The University of California, Davis Youth Agricultural Injury Study is a longitudinal study focusing on agricultural work experience among youth enrolled in an agricultural sciences curriculum in 10 public high schools in California's Central Valley during the 2001-2005 school years. Using cross-sectional data from the initial entrance survey, we studied 946 participants who reported farm work in the previous year. Median annual hours of farm work varied significantly between boys and girls (p < 0.001) and between ethnic groups (p < 0.05) (Hispanic boys: 624 hr; Hispanic girls: 189 hr; White/Other boys: 832 hr; White/Other girls: 468 hr). Girls and Hispanic students were less likely than boys and White/Other students, respectively, to perform hazardous tasks involving tractors, machinery, and chemicals. Median age for initiating work on selected hazardous tasks was up to 3 years later for Hispanic students. Use of task-appropriate safety measures was low in all groups for most hazardous tasks. Boys were more likely than girls to use task-appropriate safety measures, with the exception of seatbelt use when in a car or truck. Hispanic students were more likely than White/Other students to employ safety measures. Girls and Hispanic youth worked fewer farm hours and had reduced exposure to selected hazardous tasks. Use of task-appropriate safety measures was low for all groups but increased for Hispanic students. Further study should explore reasons for low use of safety measures and develop educational efforts to bring about social norm changes promoting their use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)362-370
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2012


  • agriculture
  • farm
  • injury
  • personal protective measures
  • risk behavior
  • youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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