Day labor work is a growing national phenomenon that consists of predominately Latino men who stand on busy street corners and storefronts soliciting work. Latino day laborers (LDLs) are a unique and marginalized population due to the unregulated nature of day labor work whereupon they find employment in the informal economy in jobs that are considered too dirty, dangerous and do not provide sustainable living wages. Undocumented status compounds the challenging circumstances of LDLs' daily life as they often experience being “treated as a reserve of flexible labor, outside the protection of labor safety, health, and minimum wage and other standards, and are easily deportable” (Taran, 2000, p. 7). This is one of the first studies to examine the risk and protective factors impacting Latino Day Laborers' (LDLs) well-being and alcohol abuse.
The study utilized a sequential mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative) design to provide a richer understanding of LDLs' psychological well-being and alcohol abuse. The strength of mixed methods is that it provides increased generalizability through quantitative methods and deeper contextual understanding and the representation of participants' voice through qualitative methods. This three phase study: 1) identified risk and protective factors documented by LDLs in the initial qualitative phase; 2) quantitatively examined the impact of these factors on LDLs' well-being and alcohol abuse; and, 3) used a member-checking focus group to contextualize, triangulate and validate the quantitative findings.
The sample was recruited from the three largest day labor corners or public streets where workers congregate to look for work in Austin, Texas. The sample that participated in the quantitative survey included 147 participants of which 68% were born in Mexico, 31% in Central America and 1% were born in the United States. Participants generally reported lower levels of acculturation, less than a high school education, and the majority were married (59%) with their wives living in their country of origin.
Two multiple regression analyses were conducted to predict well-being and alcohol abuse. The eight predictors identified by LDLs in the qualitative phase (phase I): acculturation, social isolation, discrimination, time in the U.S., age, weekly income, remittances, and psychological distress were regressed on well-being and alcohol abuse.
The quantitative results revealed that psychological distress, social isolation, and older age were risk factors and higher levels of religiosity and sending remittances to family members were protective factors of well-being. Psychological distress was found to be the only risk factor for alcohol abuse. However, the member-checking focus group found that LDLs believed that discrimination and sending remittances should have been associated to well being and alcohol abuse.
The results elucidated modifiable factors (i.e., psychological distress and social isolation) that can be targeted through interventions. Thus, these findings have significant public health and clinical implications.