New Study Lifts Curtain on Domestic Work | Hillman Foundation

Clear It With Sidney

Notes on journalism for the common good, by Lindsay Beyerstein

New Study Lifts Curtain on Domestic Work

Domestic workers labor behind closed doors, and sometimes off the books. As a result, basic facts about their circumstances are shrouded in mystery. Who are they? How much do they earn? What are their working conditions like? A report released today offers the first detailed statistical profile of America’s domestic workforce, Steven Greenhouse reports. 

The report, co-authored by a professor and an advocate for domestic workers, is based on interviews with 2,086 workers in 14 major metropolitan areas. Like 800,000 other domestic workers in America, the interview subjects were paid directly by the families they worked for, not by outside agencies. Interviews were conducted in 9 languages and respondents hailed from 71 different countries. 

The median wage for domestic workers $11 an hour for nannies and $10 an hour for caregivers and housekeepers. Nannies who were citizens had a higher median wage than their undocumented counterparts. Live-in domestic workers earned far less than those living outside the home. Domestic workers are not covered by federal minimum wage laws. 

Fringe benefits were almost non-existent. Sixty-five percent of the workers said they had no health insurance; just 4% said they were insured through their employer. 

Data like these will help legislators craft better laws to protect domestic workers.