Racial, gender disparities among direct care workers hurting recruitment, researchers say

Share this content:
Women of color working in direct care positions are more likely to live in poverty, PHI's report found.
Women of color working in direct care positions are more likely to live in poverty, PHI's report found.

Women of color working in direct care roles at nursing homes are more likely to live in poverty and rely on public assistance, posing a major challenge in recruitment, a new report suggests.

The research, conducted by the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, analyzed nationwide survey data collected between 2005 and 2015 to gauge how race and gender influence the direct care workforce.  

PHI's findings, published Wednesday, found that women of color, along with men of all races, to be “large and growing segments” within the direct care workforce. One in three nursing assistants are black women, while one in 10 are Latinas, the report found. Regardless of race or ethnicity, women in direct care positions tend to be older than men working in similar roles.

When it comes to education, PHI found that female direct care employees typically had lower levels of formal education than men. Women of color were also found to have lower levels of formal education than white direct care workers.

PHI's analysis found that men and people of color had higher personal earnings from direct care jobs, while white workers had higher family incomes in total. Women of color working in direct care positions were also found to be more likely to rely on public assistance and live in poverty than other demographics.

“In this context, improving the economic well-being of women of color in direct care would improve their quality of life, and it would help attract workers to this important occupation, as well as help retain them,” the report's authors wrote.

Further research on how to improve the economic stability of the different demographics of care workers is needed, according to the study. Researchers also called for additional strategies on recruiting more men into direct care roles.

“We also need targeted solutions that explicitly address racial and gender inequality, or we'll continue to threaten the pipeline of workers needed for this critical occupation,” said Robert Espinoza, vice president of policy at PHI.