We present research findings on problem drinking among transnational Mexican migrants employed in the mushroom industry of southeastern Pennsylvania. Our research explored the relationship between situational factors—living arrangements, social isolation, and peer pressure to drink—and problem drinking. Individual characteristics of the migrants, such as age, education level, migration history, and work experience in the mushroom industry are also considered. The premise of our study is that the migrants' judicial status in the country—as foreign solo men and, at times, undocumented or illegal migrants—places them at a high risk to binge drink. The men mainly live without their families in relatively isolated grower-provided housing or overcrowded apartment units for months, if not years, away from traditional community and kin deterrents to heavy drinking. We employed the ethnographic method in two complementary field studies: a community ethnography, designed to identify the community context of problem drinking, and a series of case studies of migrant drinkers, designed to identify the relationships between situational factors and problem drinking. Focus groups were used to explore and verify the findings generated in the two studies. Our findings reveal that there is an alcohol abuse problem among the migrants as a consequence of situational and other factors, such as festive occasions, bad news from home, and a long work week. Their binge drinking does not always result in negative behavior because the migrants follow drinking norms, and violators of these norms are dealt with accordingly. Nonetheless, binge drinking does place them at a high risk for negative behavior, which results in problems in their housing units and in local communities.
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