Community Health Worker Wage Gap: Women and people of color make less than their male and white counterparts.

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New research from PJ Maddox and Tammy Jones finds that community health worker salaries are higher in states with certification.

The ability of Community Health Workers (CHW) to address social issues of health and support access to primary and preventive health programs has made them an integral part of public health, leading to increased employment opportunities for CHWs. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 21% increase in CHW jobs (approximately 13,500) by 2030, a much faster growth rate than the average for all US occupations. Given the increase in employment, Mason’s researchers sought to determine how wages may have changed due to certification, labor changes, and monetary policies that may have affected wages or turnover.

A recent study from Tammy JonesAssistant Professor in the Department of Health Administration and Policy (HAP) and PJ MaddoxThe HAP department chair, noted that there are wage gaps between white and non-white CHWs and between male and female CHWs. Additionally, wages are higher in states with certification programs.

“Our study found that after raising certification levels, hourly wages increased among white workers, men, and part-time workers, and the increase for men was four times greater than the increase for women,” he said. Although increasing hourly wages is a positive for the sector, the majority of community health workers are people of color and women deserve equal compensation.

Hourly wages were $2.72 higher for people who identified as white and $5.16 higher for men. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration survey, 54.5% of CHWs identify as Hispanic or Black and 82% identify as female.

CHW wages increased by $2.42 per hour in states with certification programs, and wages increased by $14.46 in states with initial certification programs. Researchers found no statistically significant effect on career change in states with certification. Medicaid reimbursement was not found to have a significant effect on wage or price changes.

“Federal, state, and employer-based strategies are needed to establish and sustain effective CHW programs while providing fair wages that compensate CHWs for their value to meet the needs of populations with health disparities and disproportionate barriers to accessing care and services,” he says. Chief Detective Maddox.

CHW is a general term for frontline public health workers who have deep knowledge and understanding of the community they serve. They are uniquely recognized for their ability to identify problems that contribute to health disparities in general, improve access to health care, and connect people to social services.

Hourly wages and turnover of community health workers in US state certification policies and Medicaid payments, 2010–2021.” is published online American Journal of Public Health In August 2022, in addition to Maddox and Jones, other authors, Alex Schultz and Charlotte M. Lewis from the Mason Health Workforce Center; and Chanup Jeng, a Mason PhD student in health services now at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The research was supported in part by the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation. A difference-in-differences design was used to compare the wages and turnover of CHWs across states with CHW certification or CHW Medicaid reimbursement policies. Data were obtained from the 2010 to 2021 Current Population Survey in the United States.

Maddox and Jones previously studied CHW and found that state regulations were associated with greater adoption of professional standards. Learn more about their research here.

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