A study published this week in Health Affairs, led by the University of Minnesota, used the American Community Survey data. The survey found that while Black women make up about 7% of the U.S. labor force, they make up nearly 14% of the health care workforce.
The study also showed that at 37%, Black women have the highest probability of working in the long-term-care sector. That number is even higher in the licensed practical nurse or aide occupations (42%).
“Our findings link Black women’s position in the labor force to the historical legacies of sexism and racism, dating back to the division of care work in slavery and domestic service,” the study reads.
The authors of the study are calling for a hike in wages “across the low-wage end of the sector, making more accessible career ladders, and addressing racism in the workforce pipeline.”
The study found that Black women in caregiving jobs often experience discriminatory treatment and racist abuse from employers and care recipients. No matter their skill level, they are often centralized in the most physically demanding direct care jobs (nursing aide, licensed practical nurse, or home health aide), as well as the “back-room” jobs of cleaning and food preparation in hospitals, schools and nursing homes.
One in six home care workers live below the federal poverty level and nearly half live in low-income households. The mean hourly wage in 2019 for home care workers was $12.12, residential care workers earned average wages of $12.69 per hour, and nursing assistants in nursing homes earned $13.90 per hour.
“The legacy of slavery and the high numbers of Black women among domestic servants placed Black women at the center of this culturally constructed division of care,” despite the U.S.’s push to evolve the longstanding economic and social makeup, the researchers said.