African Immigrants in the Low Wage Health Care Labor Market: Incorporation and Poverty
Yolanda Covington-Ward, University of Pittsburgh


The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that health care support and personal care and services occupations will have the largest projected growth (34.5% and 26.8%, respectively) of all major occupation groups between 2010 and 2020. The numbers of immigrants in the health care work force are steadily growing, and about 40% of African immigrants in health care work in low wage health care support occupations. The purpose of this project is to use qualitative individual interviews with a subset of African immigrants and refugees in Pittsburgh in order to advance research on the entry, experiences, and occupational mobility of African immigrants in low wage direct care occupations.

This study will make several contributions to the literature on labor markets, immigrants, and poverty. First, this project focuses on workers in low wage health care support and personal care occupations, which are projected to be the fastest growing occupations between 2010 and 2020. Second, this project focuses on African immigrants, a group that is largely understudied in regards to labor market research, as much of the existing literature deals with Latino and Asian immigrants. Third, this project examines African immigrants in low wage direct care occupations, an area that has been overlooked in favor of research on physicians and nurses in higher paid health care occupations. Fourth, while much of the literature on low wage direct care is based on quantitative data, this project uses qualitative  methods in order to capture the multi-level factors that influence African immigrant participation in this area of the labor market.


Yolanda Covington-Ward
Assistant Professor of Africana Studies, University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Yolanda Denise Covington-Ward is an Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and an affiliated faculty member in the Department of Anthropology, Global Studies Center, African Studies and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Programs at the University of Pittsburgh.