Research Briefs & Reports

Earned Income Tax Credit Access:: July 2022

  • Nearly all participants accessed the Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • No participants used free local services to prepare their taxes.
  • One-quarter of participants paid high costs for tax preparation (an average of 12% of their total tax refund).
  • The most common use of tax refunds was bill payment.
  • Barriers to accessing the EITC included educational debt, tax preparation errors, and rigidity of EITC policy in complex family systems.


Leaving the Bedside: Findings from the Pittsburgh Hospital Workers Survey:: April 2022

Screenshot of the cover of the report entitled Leaving the Bedside: Findings from the Pittsburgh Hospital Workers Survey. The title is written on a yellow banner with the Pittsburgh Hospital Workers Survey logo at the bottom. The writing is overlaid over a black and white picture of a man walking away from the camera down a hospital hallway with an IV drip in the forefront of the photo.

  • This report represents the perspectives of over 2,000 Pittsburgh city hospital workers. It highlights their commitment to patient care, the reasons they are leaving the bedside, the extent to which they must cope with understaffing and overwork, their difficulty making ends meet, the lack of voice and safety they experience, and the effects of their working conditions on their well-being. It concludes that low pay, limited voice, understaffing, overwork, and safety concerns are contributing both to worse patient care and worse worker outcomes and thereby the current Pittsburgh hospital working conditions pose a serious risk to public health. Hospital workers’ and report authors’ suggestions for change are included and summarized below.


  • Hospitals must: 
    • Ensure adequate staffing, which requires addressing the working conditions that are driving hospital workers to leave.
    • Address worker safety so that the psychological toll of caring for people who are suffering is not compounded by the trauma of violence and threats.
    • Provide sufficient time off to prevent burnout and support workers’ well-being.
    • Guarantee access to physical and mental healthcare. There is nothing more heartbreakingly ironic than healthcare workers who cannot afford healthcare.
    • Give workers a voice in the decisions that affect their working conditions and ability to care for patients.
    • Pay livable wages so that the stress of hospital work is not intensified by the stress of struggling to make ends meet.


  • Policymakers must pass or modify local and regional laws and regulations to address the vicious cycle experienced by hospital workers so that they are supported and their voices heard. We suggest that policymakers protect and support workers’ efforts to raise their wages, legislate sufficient paid time off and medical leave, expand access to health insurance, and ensure appropriate staffing ratios.

Putting our Lives on the Line- Early Pandemic Experiences from Essential Hospital Workers:: November 2021

  • Doctors and nurses have been lauded as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic but service, clerical, and technical hospital workers have not been as well recognized and supported for their important contributions.
  • Service, clerical, and technical hospital workers, who are paid by the hour, have had to simultaneously navigate making ends meet amid workplace fluctuations and keeping safe from the heightened COVID-19 threat posed by hospital work. 
  • Unions have facilitated service, clerical, and technical hospital workers’ voice and power to address COVID-19 risks and provided social support throughout the pandemic.


Moving Beyond $15- Comparing Hardships among Healthcare Workers Earning Below and Above $20 Per Hour:: July 2021

  • Compared with those above $20/hour, workers earning below $20/hour are more likely to be Black, tend to be younger, and are less likely to have a college degree.
  • Workers below $20/hour experience more hardships than those above $20/hour.
  • Food insecurity among workers below $20/hour is almost 3 times that of workers above $20/hour.
  • Almost 90% of workers earning below $20/hour are financially insecure.



One Year into the COVID-19 Pandemic: Mental Health of Healthcare Workers:: July 2021

  • Nurses and healthcare service workers report similarly high levels of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and suicidal ideation.
  • Nurses report significantly more vicarious trauma and work-related burnout than do healthcare service workers, though both groups experience these at high levels.
  • Both nurses and healthcare service workers report high levels of personal burnout.




Motivations, Barriers, and Strategies: Perceptions of Human Service Organizations to Proposals to Raise the Minimum Wage:: May 2021



Pathways from Hardship to Health Among Low-Wage Workers :: December 2020

Screenshot of Research Brief entitled Pathways from Hardships to Health Among Low-Wage Workers from December 2020

  • Hospital workers who make well above the minimum wage still experience substantial financial, medical, and food hardships.
  • Medical hardships are directly associated with physical health. 
  • Financial hardship and food insecurity are related to higher levels of stress. 
  • Higher levels of stress are related to worse mental and physical health. 



Raising Wages of Low-Wage Workers: Does it Help?:: April 2020

Raising Wages of Low-Wage Workers: Does it Help?

  • Hospital workers experienced enormous hardships in multiple domains of their lives.
  • Hospital workers utilized a variety of strategies to make ends meet, such as using public benefits and borrowing money from family or friends.
  • Following an initial wage increase, hospital workers experienced fewer hardships and relied less often on strategies to make ends meet. 


Public Transit Helps Essential Hospital Workers Get to Work:: April 2020

  • Over a fifth (23%) of hospital workers rely on public transportation to get to work.
  • African American hospital workers (43%) are more likely to use public transportation than White workers (10%).
  • Hospital workers who take public transportation earn less than hospital workers who do not take public transportation.
  • Hospital workers who take public transportation experience more hardships than workers who do not.



Can Healthcare Workers’ Family Incomes Support Their Families?:: March 2020

  • The majority (60%) of hospital service workers resided in households with incomes below the Family Budget* threshold.
  • Hospital service workers residing in households with incomes below the Family Budget threshold…
          • Tended to be younger and/or those with larger households;
          • Experienced more hardships than those living in households with incomes at or above the threshold.
  • Most hospital service workers residing in households with incomes at or above the Family Budget still struggled to make ends meet each month.
*The Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator was used to determine a modest standard of living in Allegheny County. Learn more at the EPI Website.


“Without Us the Hospitals Wouldn’t Stay Open”: Essential Contributions of Service Workers:: March 2020

"Without Us the Hospitals Wouldn't Stay Open": Essential Contributions of Service Workers

  • Service, clerical, and technical hospital work is essential for a well-functioning hospital and a healthy community.
  • Hospital work is difficult, demanding, and requires a high level of responsibility.
  • Through their dedication and hard work, service, clerical, and technical hospital workers contribute to a positive hospital climate and quality patient care.



Is $15 Enough? Understanding the Struggles of Low Wage Workers:: January 2020

Click here to see our research brief working to understand $15 minimum wage proposals

  • The goal of this research brief is to hep understand whether or not $15 an hour is sufficient to help lower wage workers make ends meet, without detracting from efforts to push hourly wages to $15.
  • Workers paid $15.16 – $18.76 per hour did not experience fewer material hardships than workers paid less on most measures.
  • Despite their material hardships, workers paid $15.16 – $18.76 per hour received fewer public benefits than workers paid less and thus relied on private strategies (e.g., payday loans) to get by.
  • Workers paid $18.77 an hour and above had fewer hardships, less stress, higher life satisfaction and better self-reported health than all groups of workers paid less.


Hospital Service Workers & Housing Hardships:: September 2018

  • This research brief focuses on data collected after the first wage increase and focuses on housing hardships among hospital workers
  • Wage increases may be associated with reduced housing hardships
  • Even after raises, workers report concerns about affording housing and utility costs



Click here to see the research brief on medical hardships

Hospital Service Workers and Medical Hardships:: September 2018

  • This research brief focuses on data collected after the first wage increase and focuses on medical hardships among hospital workers
  • Some medical hardships may have been reduced by wage increases
  • Reliance on Medicaid remained similar, while CHIP use may have decreased
  • Still, high co-pays and deductibles may limit access to medical care even for insured workers


Click here to see the research brief on food insecurity

Hospital Service Workers and Food Insecurity:: September 2018

  • This research brief focuses on data collected after the first wage increase and focuses on food insecurity among hospital workers
  • Wage increases may be associated with reduced food insecurity
  • Wage increases may reduce need for or access to strategies for addressing food insecurity, including public benefits



Click here to read our preliminary report

Pittsburgh Wage Study Preliminary Report:: December 2017

This report outlines the data found in the first wave of data collection. The presented data were collected between 2016 and 2017 from over 50 in-depth interviews and 235 surveys from hospital workers who had received at least one incremental wage increase as part of a recently negotiated union contract.



Key findings are summarized below while more details can be seen in the linked report.
  • Hospital workers in our sample are full-time workers and many work overtime to make ends meet. They are high school graduates and the majority have advanced training. Many are raising or have raised families, and many have worked throughout their careers for relatively low wages.
  • Workers know the importance of the work they do and take pride in this work. Despite their own struggles, these workers put on a professional face and devote themselves to their jobs.
  • A large percentage of hospital workers in our sample experience financial hardships, food insecurity and medical hardships.
  • The wage increase these workers received seems to have somewhat alleviated their struggles. Unfortunately, the prevalence of hardships faced by workers remains high.
  • Workers making above $15 per hour experience fewer hardships than those making below $15 per hour, although both groups saw decreases in hardships after their wage increases.
  • Workers employ a variety of strategies for dealing with these hardships. Those making below $15 per hour utilize these strategies at higher rates than those making above $15 per hour.
  • While public benefits are one strategy used by workers, levels of public benefit receipt are low overall and lower than those found in other studies of low-wage workers.

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