By employing rigorous quantitative and qualitative research methods, the Pittsburgh Wage Study is generating extensive information about the lives of hospital service workers in Pittsburgh and how raises are affecting the well-being and quality of life of workers and their families. Quantitative surveys collect data on a variety of topics from a large number of workers. In-depth interviews with a smaller number of workers pursue specific issues in more detail, offering depth and richness that complements our survey findings. By collecting data over time we are able to explore the impacts of annual as well as cumulative raises on workers’ lives.

Research Questions

  • What hardships do workers experience under the current wage structure, as well as under the improved wage structure? How does a wage increase address some of these hardships?
  • How does a wage increase impact worker participation in public assistance programs (e.g., SNAP, LIHEAP, EITC, Child Tax Credit, Section 8, Childcare, and Medicaid) and community nonprofit programs (e.g., food banks, free clothes closets, or toy giveaways)?
  • How does a wage increase impact worker participation in employer benefits (e.g., health, retirement, education)?
  • How do wage increases affect workers’ physical and mental health?
  • How does a wage increase impact workers’ ability to increase personal savings?
  • How does a wage increase impact workers’ income packaging strategies to pay for trade school, college, or university education beyond high school?
  • How does a wage increase impact workers’ ability to participate in the lives of their families and communities? How does a wage increase affect children’s and families’ well-being?
  • How does a wage increase impact workers’ feelings about and commitment to their jobs?

What we are learning about low-wage hospital workers has also led us to investigate related concerns. We currently are studying the lives of low-wage security guards and have recently started to assess how raising the state minimum wage to $15/hour would impact local non-profit organizations. In addition, a doctoral student is conducting her dissertation research in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Wage Study. Information on these related studies is provided here. Our research briefs and reports, presentations, and publications are also available.