Quick facts: California’s changing rural areas

Welcome to McFarland, Calif.
McFarland is one of California’s 10 poorest cities, with a per capita income of $6,056.

A recent study of farm communities found that large numbers of migrant workers have settled permanently in California’s rural corners, making the transition from illegal migrant to legal neighbor. Here are some of the findings by university researchers and sociologists:

* 90% of the nearly 700,000 farmworkers in California come from Mexico.

* Many of these workers have now settled in McFarland, Parlier, Orange Cove, Huron and other towns. Immigration reform alone granted legal status to 600,000 farmworkers in 1986.

* A third of McFarland’s residents come from a single village, Huanusco in central Mexico.

* These newcomers have shifted their poverty from rural Mexico to rural California. McFarland is one of state’s 10 poorest cities, with a per capita income of $6,056.

* A state health study found one-fourth of McFarland’s children suffered anemia due to hunger. Half had never seen a dentist.

* Unlike Depression Era poverty in the South and Midwest, California’s rural poverty comes amid a booming farm economy.

* Central Valley farms produced a record $15 billion in revenue last year. The industry is dominated by large farms, many based elsewhere, so little revenue flows through McFarland.

* Researcher’s described McFarland as a “de facto labor camp.”

Source: “Poverty Amid Prosperity,” a September 1997 report by the Urban Institute, UC Davis and the California Institute for Rural Studies