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New Research Shows Home Care Workers Earn $11/Hour, High Poverty

September 3, 2019

NEW YORK — U.S. home care workers earn $11.52 an hour and $16,200 per year, and one in six of these workers lives in poverty, according to new research from PHI, a national research and consulting organization widely considered the leading expert on the direct care workforce.

Hourly wages and annual earnings are modestly higher for U.S. nursing assistants employed in nursing homes: $13.38 and $22,200, respectively. Thirteen percent live below the federal poverty line.

“Our research continues to show that despite their profound value to older people and people with disabilities nationwide, direct care workers struggle with low-paying jobs that threaten the stability of this sector,” said PHI President Jodi M. Sturgeon.

“We need to strengthen this workforce through higher compensation, improved training opportunities and career paths, and a meaningful investment in all aspects of this sector—from data collection systems to recruitment and retention interventions, and much more,” added Sturgeon.

Every year, PHI releases new data on the direct care workforce, which in this year’s research included about 2.3 million home care workers and 581,000 nursing assistants working in nursing homes. The total number of direct care workers across all industries tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is 4.5 million workers.

Both occupations support older people and people with disabilities with activities of daily living, among other responsibilities, and are among the largest-growing jobs in the country.

Other key findings include:

  • About 9 in 10 home care workers and nursing assistants are women; more than half (62% and 57%, respectively) are people of color; and 31% and 21%, respectively, are immigrants.
  • Sixty-two percent of home care workers work full time and 48% live in low-income households.
  • Eighty-one percent of nursing assistants work full time and 44% live in low-income households.
  • Fifty-three percent of home care workers and 36% of nursing assistants rely on some form of public assistance.

In the years ahead, the rapid growth in the number of older adults will play a major role in driving demand for direct care workers. By 2050, the population of people 65 and older will nearly double, from 47.8 million in 2015 to 88 million in 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Additionally, the persistent poor quality of direct care jobs, which spurs high turnover in this sector, will create even more job openings. Between 2016 and 2026, the long-term care sector will need to fill 4.2 million home care worker job openings and nearly 680,000 nursing assistant job openings, primarily caused by workers leaving this field because of poor-quality jobs.

Read the latest research on U.S. home care workers.

Read the latest research on U.S. nursing assistants employed in nursing homes.

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