August 30, 2022

School researchers led by Professor Jennifer Romich, director of the School of Social Work’s West Coast Poverty Center, with Associate Professor Emiko Tajima, executive director of the School’s Partners for Our Children, were awarded a contract for $498,278 to conduct a comparable-worth wage analysis of the nonprofit human services sector in the City of Seattle and King County.

Salaries for human services workers — those who provide child care, services for older individuals or for people with disabilities, for example — are lagging behind other sectors, despite the high skill-level required, demanding nature of the work, and critical value to the community. Low wages can lead to a crisis in recruitment and retention as high employee turnover reduces the quality of care that can be provided.

In addition, as the cost of living in Seattle and King County continues to rise, many human services workers in the nonprofit sector are choosing to leave the region or the profession, which will have a dramatic effect on the well-being of the community as a whole. The timing for this analysis is particularly apt as employment trends during the pandemic have shifted and workers are rethinking their values and priorities.

In selecting the School of Social Work for the award, the contracting committee cited the School’s broad experience with comparable-worth wage analysis, work on public policy issues, and connections with national and international researchers who can provide perspective throughout the study.

Joining Romich and Tajima as part of the core coordinating team are Shannon Harper, West Coast Poverty Center research director, and Nicole Sadow-Hasenberg, communications manager, Partners for Our Children. They will be supported by researchers affiliated with the University of Washington and other U. S. and British academic institutions and nonprofit research organizations on both the east and west coasts.

The researchers will focus on three areas: market analysis, job evaluation and policy analysis. A report with recommendations related to pay structures will be submitted in January 2023. Presentations to regional stakeholders, including funders and human services organizations, will take place next year. The contract was awarded by City of Seattle Human Services Department.