Projects Funded for Alexandra Hill


Air Pollution Exposure and Agricultural Worker Productivity

Tim Beatty and Alexandra Hill


Specific Objectives of the Project:

  • Distribute Fitbit activity trackers to workers on 3 strawberry farms in California.
  • Construct measures of temperature and pollution from gridded temperature and satellite data.
  • Merge the activity tracking and pollution data with hourly productivity of strawberry harvesters to examine the immediate, lagged, and cumulative effects of pollution on both activity and productivity.
  • Obtain measures of activity and caloric exertion for agricultural laborers in California.

Summary of Results:
This project was significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We were unable to access our field sites during in 2020 and 2021, which shifted the deployment of our data collection exercise until July 2022. During the grant period we acquired and developed all materials necessary to go to the field.
Accomplishments to date:

  • IRB approval and all consent materials and survey instruments in both English and Spanish.
  • Fitbit movement trackers were acquired and Fitibase software to manage real time data collection as well as sending reminders to participants was piloted.
  • Code to create pollution and temperature measures during the planned intervention was obtained.


The Minimum Wage and Productivity: A Case Study of California Strawberry Pickers

Tim Beatty and Alexandra Hill


Specific Objectives of the Project:
This project sought to document the productivity effects of minimum wage increases on piece rate agricultural workers. Specific research questions included:

  1. Do piece rate workers become less productive in response to an increase in the minimum (hourly) wage without a contemporaneous increase in the piece rate?
  2. To what extent can producers mitigate these productivity losses by increasing the piece rate wage?
  3. How do changes in the piece rate and minimum hourly wage affect the profile of new hires and the resulting composition of the workforce?

Project Report/Summary of Results:
The project resulted in the first essay in Alexandra Hill’s thesis, which subsequently won the AAEA 2020 Outstanding Dissertation award. The main results of the project provided pilot data for a USDA-NIFA AFRI Proposal. This project is broader than the Giannini Foundation grant, but would not have been possible without the seed money provided by the foundation. If successful, the grant requests funds to fund a UC Davis ARE PhD student for 3 full years.


Heat-Related Illnesses Among California Agricultural Workers

Tim Beatty and Alexandra Hill


Specific Objectives of the Project:
This project studies the costs and prevalence of heat related illnesses in
California’s agricultural workforce using clinical hospital admissions data.
Research questions included:
• What are the causal effects of temperature, wages, and commodity prices
on the prevalence of heat-related illnesses among agricultural workers?
• How do hospital-reported heat illness rates among agricultural workers
compare to employer self-reports?
• Are agricultural workers in California experiencing a chronic heat-related
illness, Chronic Kidney Disease, first seen in agricultural workers in
Central America?

Project Report/Summary of Results:
This project came to a series of null findings. We found imprecise estimates of a
null effect.
The better news is that in the course of the project, we compiled data from
California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (Cal-OSHPD),
as well as incident reports from Cal-OSHA and had to reconcile discrepancies
between multiple data sources.
Because of this preliminary work, we were invited to submit a proposal to
participate in the Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety’s (WCAHS)
renewal proposal. WCAHS is a National Institute of Occupational Health and
Safety agricultural center. These centers are on 5-year funding cycles and each
renewal proposals are made up of a portfolio of projects. If our project is chosen
to be part of the renewal, and the center is renewed, this would lead to five years
of funding in the 150,000 to 200,000 per year.