merce and federal employees are covered under the Federal Employment Compensation Act. As with the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, most state workers' compensation laws treat agricultural workers differently; only 12 states provide coverage of agricultural workers similar to that of other workers (U.S. Department of Labor, no date: Table 3).7
Workers' compensation reaches more workers and occupies the attention of more employers than do all other occupational safety and health programs put together. Its objectives extend to both social insurance and the improvement of working conditions. As a social insurance program, it assumes the cost of medical expenses associated with occupational injuries and illnesses, and it replaces a portion of workers' lost income. As a safety and health program, it has the potential to provide incentives for employers to improve working conditions or otherwise reduce the burden of claims. State workers' compensation agencies also provide a range of services that include voluntary consultations for employers, return-to-work assistance for workers, dispute resolution, and other measures designed to make program costs less onerous. Although the effectiveness of workers' compensation, in this country and elsewhere, has been studied extensively, no research has focused on the needs of young workers. The system may well underserve this population because benefits are related to the loss of income rather than the loss of schooling and because children and adolescents underuse the system. In addition, many state workers' compensation laws limit the legal remedies available for the occupational injury or death of anyone under the age of 18 (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 1997).
The underlying principle in workers' compensation indemnity is that the primary financial hardships experienced by victims of injury and illness are their medical costs and their loss of income. States employ formulas to determine the fraction of this lost income that the system will replace, generally two-thirds, up to a statutory maxi-