Report: Immigration Status and Race Affect Domestic Workers’ Pay

Welcome to the world of domestic work.

By Julianne Hing Nov 27, 2012

Home work is professional work for domestic workers. But there, as in the rest of the world, a domestic worker’s race and immigration status impact how well she’s paid and what kind of working environment she lives with. Undocumented domestic workers are paid roughly 20 percent less than their U.S.-citizen counterparts, according to a groundbreaking new report offering the first national look at domestic workers’ world–one where unforgiving work, a high incidence of abuse and differential pay depending on race is the standard. More than 2,000 nannies, house cleaners and caregivers in 14 U.S. cities were surveyed for the study ([PDF](, released today by the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Domestic work is treated as women’s work–94 percent of such workers are women. And domestic work is low-paying work. Domestic workers earn 23 percent less than their state’s minimum wage. But within the industry, U.S.-born and U.S.-citizen nannies, caregivers and housecleaners make roughly a dollar more an hour than their counterparts who have legal status, and around two dollars more an hour than undocumented domestic workers. The median hourly wage for U.S.-citizen domestic workers is $12 an hour, but is $10 an hour for those who are undocumented. As in the rest of the working world, a domestic worker’s immigration status impacts her pay and her worklife. Undocumented domestic workers are more likely than workers with legal status or citizenship to report being assigned work beyond their job descriptions. They’re also more likely to be required to do "heavy, strenuous" work, get injured on the job, and then have to work while injured. Some 77 percent of undocumented domestic workers reported working while sick, injured or in pain, compared to 66 percent of all domestic workers surveyed, and just 56 of U.S.-born domestic workers. Those who are are foreign-born make up 46 percent of the domestic worker workforce.