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African Immigrants in Low-Wage Direct Health Care: Motivations, Job Satisfaction, and Occupational Mobility


This study explores motivations, job satisfaction, and overall perceived occupational mobility for African immigrants working in low-wage direct health care occupations. The study uses qualitative semi-structured interviews with a sample of thirty African immigrant workers in the greater Pittsburgh metropolitan area. Results show that four major themes captured the motivations of interviewees for doing direct care work: passion for care work, quick money, easily obtained employment, and direct care work as a pathway to other health occupations. The majority of the interviewees were satisfied with their jobs, yet almost all of them saw their occupations as temporary or transitional employment. Most of the interviewees also saw their jobs as lacking occupational mobility. In light of the increased national demand for direct care workers, the growing numbers of immigrants in the direct care labor force, and the high turnover and low retention rates of direct care workers overall, the study suggests that more must be done to make direct care work attractive and rewarding for African immigrant workers.

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This study was funded by a 2013–2014 Small Grant from the Center for Poverty Research at the University of California, Davis.

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Correspondence to Yolanda Covington-Ward.

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Covington-Ward, Y. African Immigrants in Low-Wage Direct Health Care: Motivations, Job Satisfaction, and Occupational Mobility. J Immigrant Minority Health 19, 709–715 (2017).

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  • African
  • Immigrants
  • Direct care
  • Nursing aides
  • Home health aides
  • Motivation