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This report addresses a 2022 legislative assignment, the first in a two-part series on the needs of farmworkers in Washington State and the role of state and federal agencies in addressing those needs. WSIPP will carry out a survey of Washington farmworkers during the 2024 growing and harvesting seasons to better understand their needs. As specified in the legislative assignment, questions will focus on workplace health and safety, the payment of wages, the use of government services, harassment and retaliation for asserting their rights, and other socioeconomic challenges.
This preliminary report provides a brief overview of US farmworkers and agriculture in Washington. We summarize the existing literature on challenges faced by farmworkers in the US related to workplace health and safety, labor and pay, immigration, and socioeconomics. Finally, we outline our plan to conduct the 2024 survey and detail work already completed in the survey effort.
A final report on the survey results, state agency coordination, and potential policies to address coordination will be published on June 30, 2025.
The legislature specifically directed WSIPP to study the needs of farmworkers and relevant policies and state agency programs. WSIPP was not asked to examine the perspective of farm owners or employers. This limitation will be discussed in the final report.
The underground construction economy (UCE) consists of all economic activities in construction that would be legal if fully reported to authorities as required. It includes employees misclassified as independent contractors or being paid under the table and independent contractors and businesses unregistered or underreporting their activity. Each type of UCE activity produces losses to workers, consumers, businesses, and state and federal government programs. Past research has found that underground activity is common in the construction industry.
We estimate the size and cost to workers, Washington state, and the federal government of Washington’s underground construction economy by year from 2011-2021. We find that an average of 14.2% of construction workers in the state are part of the UCE each year. We estimate average annual total costs to be $142.6 million to Washington construction workers, $59.8 million to the state, and $315.4 million to the federal government.
We provide an overview of the many actions taken by Washington state agencies to detect and enforce UCE activity and comment on barriers to collaboration between them. Finally, we survey common underground economy-related programs and policies in other jurisdictions that may improve the detection and enforcement of UCE activity.
In November 2012, Washington State voters passed Initiative 502 (I-502), which legalized limited possession, private use, and commercial sales of cannabis for adults. The law also directed the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) to evaluate various public health, public safety, and economic impacts of the implementation of I-502 in a series of reports.
In this third required report, we describe findings from analyses of the relationship between non-medical cannabis legalization or licensed retail operations and various outcomes. First, we examined how cannabis possession misdemeanor conviction rates changed in Washington after the passage of I-502. Second, we examined how reported cannabis use has changed in Washington after the passage of I-502 compared to non-legalizing states. Last, we specifically focused on the impact of local access to licensed non-medical retailers. For these analyses, we examined how retail access relates to substance abuse and traffic safety outcomes within the state over time.
These analyses represent an intermediate step towards the ultimate legislatively mandated benefit-cost evaluation of I-502.
In November 2012, Washington State voters passed Initiative 502 (I-502), which legalized limited possession, private use, and commercial sales of cannabis for adults. In this report, we examined if greater access to licensed non-medical cannabis (NMC) retailers relates to disordered substance use diagnoses among Medicaid beneficiaries in Washington State. We found that a lower average travel time to an NMC retailer predicts a small increase in the probability that a claim includes a diagnosis of cannabis use disorder (CUD), alcohol use disorder (AUD), or opioid use disorder (OUD) among Medicaid beneficiaries ages 21 and older and beneficiaries ages 12-17. We also found that in neighborhoods with multiple retailers located in proximity (within 5 or 10 minutes), an increase in the number of retailers predicts a higher likelihood of CUD.
In November 2012, Washington State voters passed Initiative 502 (I-502), which legalized limited possession, private use, and commercial sales of cannabis for adults. Specifically, I-502 legalized the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis (about 28 grams) for personal use for individuals ages 21 and older.
In this report, we examined how rates of cannabis possession misdemeanor convictions have changed since the enactment of I-502. We found that cannabis possession conviction rates dropped to almost zero among adults of legal age immediately after I-502 went into effect. Rates also substantively dropped for underaged individuals after NMC legalization, but not as dramatically as for adults ages 21 and over. Across all age groups, we find no significant changes in conviction rates after the advent of NMC retail operations.
In November 2012, Washington State voters passed Initiative 502 (I-502), which legalized limited possession, private use, and commercial sales of cannabis for adults. In this report, we examined the relationship between greater access to licensed non-medical cannabis (NMC) retailers and the prevalence of fatal traffic collisions. We found that a lower average travel time to an NMC retailer is related to both a modest increase in the prevalence of total drivers involved in a fatal traffic collision and drivers who test positive for THC. These findings suggest that in areas with more cannabis use (as measured by easier access to legal cannabis retail), there are more drivers involved in fatal traffic collisions. We found no evidence that retail access relates to the prevalence of drivers who test positive for alcohol alone (BAC at least 0.08), or any amount of alcohol in combination with THC.
In November 2012, Washington State voters passed Initiative 502 (I-502), which legalized limited possession, private use, and commercial sales of cannabis for adults. In this report, using national survey data between 2004 to 2019, we compared changes in the rates of reported cannabis, alcohol, and other substance use in Washington relative to comparable states after the enactment of I-502 and the advent of a licensed retail market. We do not find evidence that the enactment of I-502 or the advent of cannabis retail sales in Washington significantly changed reported adult or youth cannabis use, alcohol use, or other substance use compared to non-legalizing states.
WSIPP receives funding from the legislature to conduct research on K-12 education topics that are relevant in Washington. In this report, we examine academic achievement among public school students in Washington during the COVID-19 pandemic. First, we estimate how student math and English Language Arts (ELA) achievement changed during the pandemic. Next, we predict long-term effects on future earnings, and finally, we discuss several interventions that may help students recover academically.
Overall, we found that average test scores in the 2022 school year were 0.20 standard deviations (SD) lower than average test scores before the pandemic. We observed larger declines in math test scores than ELA scores, and we estimated the largest effect in middle school grades, though effects in elementary and high school grades are also notable. Further, we found larger test score declines among female students, students of color, and low-income students compared to their male, White, Asian, and economically advantaged peers.
We estimate that a 0.20 SD decline in test scores is associated with an average $32,000 decrease in future earnings per student compared to students before the pandemic. Finally, we reviewed the impact of interventions like tutoring, academically-focused summer school programs, and double-dose classes on student achievement. We estimate that on average, these programs increase test scores between 0.03 and 0.39 SD. These interventions may help offset the decline in scores we observe and help students recover academically in the post-pandemic period.
In Washington State, Functional Family Therapy (FFT) is one of the many evidence-based programs made available to court-involved youth on probation. In 2022, WSIPP was contracted to evaluate the effect of the program on recidivism.
Using administrative data, this study examined the likelihood of recidivism for youth participating in FFT relative to eligible youth who did not participate in FFT. In addition, we evaluated for whom, and under what conditions, the program was most effective.
Our findings indicate that participation in FFT is associated with an increased likelihood of recidivism, when compared to the average “treatment-as-usual” that youth in the juvenile courts typically receive. On average, youth who started FFT were 10.1 percentage points more likely to recidivate than youth in the comparison group. Of those who recidivated, there were no significant differences found in the rates of felony or violent felony recidivism. The association between participation in FFT and recidivism did not vary based on youth characteristics, geography, living situation, or competency of therapist.
In 2016, HB 1713 (Ricky’s Law) modified the Involuntary Treatment Act. The Act integrated crisis response for mental health and substance abuse (SUD), created a new classification of mental health professionals, and mandated the creation of Secure Withdrawal and Management and Stabilization facilities (SWMS) to serve those detained for SUD.
The law also directed WSIPP to evaluate the effects of the law. We evaluated the outcomes for those detained to SWMS, comparing them to people never detained but who had received voluntary detoxification treatment in the same period.
In the six months following treatment, SWMS clients were less likely to:
We found no significant difference in rates of mental health treatment, arrest, or employment.
Our benefit-cost analysis found that, compared to the detox group, SWMS returns $0.19 per dollar spent. We estimate that benefits will exceed costs 6% of the time. That is, compared to the detox-only group, the cost of the program exceeds the benefits we are able to estimate.