1 in 4 Home Care Workers Lives in Poverty

Taking inflation into account, American home care workers are actually making lesser wages than they did 10 years ago—despite their jobs being in greater demand than ever before. In fact, given the enormity of the upcoming demand for home care workers, this trend is unsustainable, according to a new research report.

There are about 2.2 million home care workers in the United States, and about 1 in 4 of them live below the federal poverty line, according to recently published research from the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI). PHI is organization based in Bronx, New York, that works with care providers, consumers, policymakers and labor advocates to strengthen direct-care jobs.

Home care worker wages have not kept pace with inflation over the last 10 years, PHI’s research shows. In fact, inflation-adjusted wages stayed basically the same, and actually fell from $10.21 in 2005 to $10.11 in 2015.

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Additionally, about two-thirds of home care workers work part time or for part of the year. Their employment tends to be erratic, as client care needs range from a few hours per week to around the clock, and may change with time.

Due to inconsistent hours and low wages, home care workers bring in a median annual income of $13,300. More than 50% of all home care workers depend on some kind of public assistance, the research reveals.

All of these factors combined do not make home care a necessarily attractive field for workers. But with the number of Americans over age 85 expected to triple to 19 million by 2050, the home care industry will have no choice but to attract new workers, PHI notes.

Between 2014 and 2024, home care occupations—home health aides, personal care aides and nursing assistants—are expected to add more jobs than any other single occupation, with an additional 633,100 new jobs, the research report shows.

“If the home care workforce is to grow, jobs will need to be more competitive, offering higher wages and improved working conditions,” PHI’s report concludes.

Some other findings in the report include:

  • Approximately 90% of home care workers are women, and their median age is 45 years old
  • More than half of home care workers are people of color
  • More than 25% of home care workers were born outside of the United States
  • Over 50% of home care workers have no formal education beyond high school

Written by Mary Kate Nelson