The Fastest Growing Job In America Pays Less Than $10 Per Hour

Written by Sy Mukherjee

They swap out bed pans, tend to wounds, and assist with every facet of day-to-day life — sometimes even living with their patients. They’re home health care aides, and they are a crucial resource in caring for America’s sick, elderly, and disabled — and they do it all for an average wage of $9.70 per hour, less than the mean hourly compensation for lifeguards, food servers, and dry cleaners.

That reality will continue to affect more and more Americans, as growth in this particular portion of the health care industry has been fast — and it’s only going to get faster. Job growth in the American health care sector doubled from January to February, led by strong gains in ambulatory care givers, hospital workers, and home health aides. And as CNN Money points out, an uptick in America’s elderly population — fueled by aging Baby Boomers — will lead to an explosion in demand for such workers’ services.

But due to a loophole in labor protection laws, home health aides often make less than minimum wage, earning about $20,000 per year. And that’s just the full-time workers. Part-time health aides, who make up most of the profession, make even less and don’t receive benefits — leading to a sadly ironic situation in which health workers are often forced to forgo their own health care and turn to government safety net programs:

Under these conditions, it’s no surprise then that about 40% of home aides rely on public assistance, such as Medicaid and food stamps, just to get by.

“What you have is a situation here where the people that we count on to care for our families cannot take care of their own, and that’s got to change,” said Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. [...]

A recent study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates immigrants make up 28% of home health care workers, and of those, one in five are undocumented.

The Census Bureau has found that 53% of home health aides are minorities. By their calculations, it is the single most common job for black women, who alone represent nearly a third of the entire profession.

This is part of the reason workers are undervalued and underpaid, say worker advocates like Eileen Boris, a professor of feminist studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The fact that the populations who are already disproportionately affected by poverty and poor access to essential services are turning to such low-wage, low-benefit jobs is a sad reflection on both America’s economic recovery and holes in the social safety net. In fact, most of the jobs added to the U.S. economy since the recession ended pay low wages.

Under Obamacare, home health aides will serve as essential foot soldiers in the fight to make America’s health care system more efficient. The Obama Administration has been pushing to revamp labor protections for home health aides, but that effort has not enjoyed much success so far.

This post was originally published by ThinkProgress.



Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra5 years ago

Thank you ThinkProgress, for Sharing this!

Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia5 years ago


Nimue Pendragon

You people are getting ripped-off in America.

Latoya Brookins
Latoya Brookins5 years ago

Wait, food servers make more than $9.70 an hour? They make as much as office employees?

Heather Holland
Heather Holland5 years ago


Darcie Busch
Darcie Busch5 years ago

I know this all to well. I am a part-time caregiver.

Mary B.
Mary B5 years ago

We all know what needs to be done. These workers need a living wage from the social safety, net, then what ever is affordable would be paid by their employers, and their own health care needs covered by a single payer government system. When people can finally get their minds around the fact that this money need not come from taxes.The day is coming when more and more jobs will be taken over by robots and other techno stuff, leaving us with lots of free time to devote to our own lives and volunteer work and any other jobs that still need real people. So a way of getting money into the hands of ordinary folks must be developed since we will be the new stewards of the money supply, rather than the banks.Learning to budget and not waste any of our planetary resources will make this possible. Those who can do nothing but fight the same old battles over and over again are a pointless distraction. Ignor them if you can.And keep in mind, it costs a lot more to create a job than it does just to give people money directly, especially in terms of natural resources.

Sheri P.
Sheri P5 years ago

that is RIDICULOUS! they are GROSSLY underpaid...

Latoya Brookins
Latoya Brookins5 years ago

I can't imagine doing a quarter of the stuff these care workers do every day. They should be making as much money as celebrities.

Lynn Demsky
Lynn D5 years ago