Those who work in the home, such as child caretakers, housekeepers, and those who care for the elderly and disabled, make 25 percent less in hourly wages than similar workers in other occupations, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute.
The report controlled for a variety of demographic differences, such as gender, citizenship, race, education, and age, to compare in-home workers with others that have the same characteristics. It found that the wages for those who work in the home are lower than for the same workers who work in other occupations. Those with a bachelor’s degree would make over 50 percent more than they make working in someone’s home, for example. It also finds that in-home workers are nearly 30 percent less likely to have health insurance or pensions through their employers than similar workers who have other jobs.
In-home workers are also more likely to live in poverty compared to their peers, with a poverty rate 11.6 percentage points higher than similar workers. They are also nearly 20 percent more likely to live at twice the poverty line, typically an indication that they still have trouble making ends meet.
These findings have important gender and racial repercussions. The report also looks at the demographics of those who work in these positions and finds that they are overwhelmingly female — more than 90 percent are women, while less than half of all other workers are women. More than a quarter are Hispanic, compared to 15 percent of the rest of the workforce, and nearly 20 percent are black compared to about 10 percent of the general workforce. They are also not only more likely to be immigrants, but to also not be U.S. citizens.
The report’s findings line up with other evidence that people who provide essential services such as childcare, house cleaning, and medical care for our loved ones are paid very little. Home health aides who help the elderly and disabled make a median wage of $9.70. A third of nannies make less than the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Even those who do the work outside of their homes make very little — people who work in childcare centers make a median wage of $10.60 an hour despite being highly experienced.
They are also often excluded from labor rights, although that is starting to shift. The Department of Labor recently announced a rule change that will mean home health aides are covered by federal minimum wage and overtime laws. Domestic workers such as nannies and housekeepers have won expanded labor rights in New York, Hawaii, and California and lawmakers are considering a similar law in Massachusetts, with a few others expected to follow.
It will be come increasingly important that these jobs pay well and provide good benefits given that they are a booming part of the economy. EPI’s report notes that in-home occupations are expected to grow by more than 50 percent this decade, compared to a growth rate of 14.3 percent for other jobs. That will mean more and more people relying on these low wages.