Grueling Commutes Add to Home Health Aide Workweeks

The issue of overtime pay for home care workers has been front-and-center in recent weeks, but providers might want to consider another issue that could be impacting hiring and retention: Long commute times.

The situation is perhaps starkest in New York City, where home health and nursing aides experience especially grueling commutes, according to a report released Wednesday by the office of Comptroller Scott Stringer.

In the Big Apple, these aides have an average workweek of 48.46 hours, taking commuting time into account. That’s 3.23 hours longer than the average workweek for these aides in other American cities.

However, the reasons why home care workers have long commutes are not unique to New York City.

Higher-paid, better-educated professionals tend to be able to afford housing that is close to their place of work — Manhattan, in the case of NYC — while lower-wage workers tend to live farther away. So, among health care workers, physicians and surgeons reported the shortest commutes, while home health aides were on the other end of the spectrum.

“A basic premise of urban economics is that workers in the largest cities receive higher pay — a wage premium — that serves to compensate them for the higher cost of living in those cities,” the report states. “Without those wage premiums (or equally valuable urban amenities) workers in large cities would migrate to places where the cost of living is lower, and the relative size of cities would be unstable.”

However, the 133,000 home health aides in NYC flout this principle. They in fact earn 3% less than aides in comparable cities that have a lower cost of living. Combined with their long commutes and the high cost of living in New York, they essentially make 11% less on an hourly basis than their peers elsewhere, according to the report.

Data in “The Hardest Working Cities” report came from the U.S. Census and the American Community Survey. Click here to access the complete document.

Written by Tim Mullaney

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