The Facts About CNA Wages


Bob Goddard

There is a great deal of confusion within the CNA community regarding the issue of wages and how it fits into the larger long term care picture. While there is general agreement that caregivers are underpaid, that perception is primarily based on personal experience, that of our own and of others. This anecdotal evidence is useful in its own right, if for no other reason than it is overwhelming. However, discussions regarding the wage issue are characterized by emotional responses and typically lack references to data that back up the arguments.  Solid facts are sometimes offered within the CNA online forums, but usually not in any kind of comprehensive or purposeful way.

In order to help us get a more accurate picture of the state of direct care work in this country, below is a list of just a few of the more significant statistics. The primary source for these is a PHI fact sheet published in August of 2017.

I think this kind of short list might be useful for those who argue for better wages for caregivers. In future posts, I’ll give my take on what I think these statistics mean.

First, just to get a sense of the scope:

15,400 long term care facilities in the United States

1.4 million residents live in these facilities

600,000 CNAs work in them

But those 600,000 are only 13 percent of the total of direct care workers employed in the United States, because…

4.5 million direct care workers are employed in all types of situations, including home care, Continuing Care Retirement Communities, Assisted Living Facilities, Hospitals, Centers for Developmentally Disabled, Mental Health, Substance Abuse, Employment & Rehab.

Second, the demographics of caregivers:

91 percent are female

Half are under age 35

Half are people of color

Half have some college, (about 1 in 7 have associates degree or higher)

20 percent were born outside of the United States

Third, the money issue:

$12.34/hr is the median wage of CNAs (half make more, half make less)

$20,000 is the average annual income

Half work part time at least part of the year

17 percent live below the poverty line (compared to 7 percent of all American workers)

40 percent receive some form of public assistance

72 percent of long term care is finance through public programs (mostly Medicaid and Medicare)

Finally, the demand for caregivers is growing:

60,000 more caregivers will be needed by 2024. It is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States workforce.

1 in 2 caregivers leave the job within 12 months. And more LTC workers are leaving this sector than entering it.

I would encourage anyone who is interested to visit the PHI site where more information like this can be found. Of current interest is the ongoing 60 Caregivers Issues series where they tackle a whole range of issues regarding our work, such as caregiver wages, training, recruitment and retention, and advocacy.

Next week, I’ll share what I think some of these numbers mean for the larger long term care picture.

2 thoughts on “The Facts About CNA Wages

  1. donna

    This is such an important issue and your comment is packed with what we need, Bob: data. (And yes, thanks to PHI for their great data.) The substandard level of wages of direct-care worker in LTC homes affects the standard of care being provided, but those setting budgets don’t want to acknowledge this. Before budgets will be fair, they must become transparent.

    1. Bob Goddard

      Yes, it’s not only about how much Federal spending is allocated to LTC, but also transparency of how that money is spent by the homes. If I understand correctly, the rules for transparency vary from state to state. Both these issues are critical when it comes to CNA wages. Although, of the two, I’m thinking the amount of Federal spending is the bigger part of the problem.


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