Institute on Community IntegrationCollege of Education and Human Development

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Policy Research Brief

This document has been archived because some of the information it contains is out of date. (Effective May 2012)

Published by the Research and Training Center on Community Living, Institute on Community Integration (UCEDD) • College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota

Volume 14 • Number 2 • March 2003

Wages of Direct Support Professionals Serving Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: A Survey of State Agencies and Private Residential Provider Trade Associations

This brief summarizes the results of a survey of state agencies administering services for persons with intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities (ID/DD) and state-level residential service provider trade associations. The purpose of the survey was to gather and summarize available state-level information on wages paid to direct support professionals (DSPs) within each of the states. (DSPs are the individuals who provide the ongoing person-to-person support needed by people with ID/DD to carry out their daily activities.) In addition to wage statistics, the survey also gathered information on legislative and other initiatives within the states to affect DSP wages. Data collection included a brief survey to which key informants responded via mail or by telephone interview. Reports related to DSP wages, legislation, and other documents related to wage policy or related initiatives were also obtained and abstracted.

This brief was authored by Barbara Polister, Project Coordinator; K. Charlie Lakin, Director/Senior Research Associate; and Robert Prouty, Research Fellow; Research and Training Center on Community Living, Institute on Community Integration (UCEDD), University of Minnesota. They may be reached at 612/624-4394, 612/624-5005, or 612/626/2020, respectively, or via email at polis001@umn.edu, lakin001@umn.edu, or prout004@umn.edu, respectively. Preparation of this report was supported by a grant from the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Grant No. 90DN0028/04).

Introduction

Over the past quarter century, there have been remarkable changes in the residential services system for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD). This system has been transformed along several dimensions. Two of the most important dimensions of change have been the shift from institutional to community services, and the shift from the state as a provider of services to the state as a buyer of services from non-state providers, usually private entities. The shift from institutional to community living for persons with ID/DD has substantially affected the role of the direct support professionals (DSPs) who provide the ongoing personal support needed by individuals with ID/DD. Increasing use of in-home services, supported living arrangements, and smaller residential settings have placed new demands on DSPs as they work with far less direct supervision and substantially greater responsibility than DSPs in institutional settings.

As the residential service system has shifted from state operation by state employees to contracted services provided by non-state employees, the relative pay and other compensation for DSPs has also been affected. A number of studies have shown that DSPs working for non-state agencies tend to be less well compensated than state employees working in the same general DSP role (Braddock & Mitchell, 1992; Lakin & Bruininks, 1981). The increased autonomy and responsibility placed on community DSPs and the relatively low compensation for people assuming those responsibilities within non-state agencies have affected the ability to recruit and retain people sufficiently able to contribute to the well-being of people with ID/DD through DSP work. Staff turnover among non-state community service agencies is consistently found to range from 50-75% per year or more, as compared with about 20-25% per year in state-operated services (Larson, Lakin & Hewitt, 2002). Compounding the problem of extremely high turnover rates is the increasing problem that recruitment represents. The low birth rates of the 1960s and 1970s have led to labor shortages and increased competition for employee pools from which DSPs traditionally have been drawn. One result is a growing rate of total staff and “shift” vacancies that jeopardize the basic safety and well-being of persons with ID/DD.

It is commonly recognized that pay and benefits present a major challenge to the ability of community service agencies to recruit and retain a sufficient DSP workforce to meet the current and growing demand for community services. Of concern in responding to this challenge are a number of factors, including a) the actual wages provided to people in the DSP roles, b) the rate of change in DSP wages over time, c) the discrepancy between DSP wages and average worker wages, and d) the discrepancy between wages paid to state and non-state agency DSPs. This survey was undertaken to gather and summarize available statistics on these factors.

Methodology

The initial catalyst for this study was a request from a state agency for information concerning the beginning and average wages of direct support professionals (DSPs) in non-state community residential settings in the various states and how those wages compared with wages of state-employed DSPs. This state agency also requested information about legislative and other state government actions or initiatives being undertaken to improve wages of community DSPs. While we did have access to information from some states, we recognized that the information we maintained did not reflect the national picture that was requested. We therefore developed a survey of all states to identify and obtain the information requested. The National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services (NASDDDS) and the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) both encouraged and endorsed this survey.

Survey Approach

A brief survey was developed for all state ID/DD program directors (or their designees) and for executive directors of state-level residential service provider trade associations. The survey asked respondents to identify recent studies, reports, and/or other information or estimates within their states regarding average wages for beginning and for all DSPs in non-state and state-operated community services as of 1998 or later. Copies of related reports, legislation, and other summaries of government initiatives related to wages were also requested. No request was made with respect to DSP wages in large state facilities (16 or more residents) in the survey because we gather these statistics on a biannual basis directly from the individual state facilities (Prouty, Smith, & Lakin, 2001).

The survey and request for documents was mailed in May 2002. Respondents were offered the opportunity to respond by mail or telephone interview. Follow-up calls were conducted during summer 2002 to encourage initial responses and clarify information provided.

Response Rates

Responses by Respondent Group. Responses were obtained from 49 of the 51 surveyed state agencies and 25 of 32 surveyed state residential service provider associations. The data used in this report also includes responses received from 169 of 187 individual large state facilities as part of the biannual survey.

Wage Statistics Supplied on Non-State Community DSPs. Nationally, 37 state agencies were able to provide documentation on an average beginning or average wage of DSPs working in non-state community services as of 1998 or later. Fifteen state residential service provider trade associations provided statistics on either average beginning or average direct support staff wages in non-state community services. Altogether, in 42 states, either the state ID/DD services program agency or the state residential service trade association reported average beginning and/or average wage of DSPs in non-state community agencies. In seven of these states a median wage statistic was used instead of an “average” wage statistic.

Wage Statistics Supplied on State Employee DSPs. Thirteen state ID/DD program agencies provided the average beginning and/or average wage of direct support professionals working in state-operated community residential programs. As noted above, state institution DSP wages were reported by 169 of 187 surveyed state institutions. All states still operating state institutions had a majority of state facilities reporting and a weighted (by total full-time DSPs) state average was computed.

Wage Comparisons

The wage statistics provided were entered into a spreadsheet to permit comparisons and aggregations. In addition to the statistics noted above, statistics were also obtained to permit comparisons of average DSP pay with average pay for all workers. This statistic was generated from the average workers covered by unemployment insurance in each state in 2000 as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS statistics were converted to an hourly equivalent for comparison with DSP wages (the original link that was printed with this brief, http://stats/blx/newsrelease.annpay.t01.htm, no longer works - however this new link may provide the same or equivalent information, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/annpay.t01.htm). Average contemporary DSP wages were also compared with DSP averages about a decade earlier, specifically 1989. Estimates of state and non-state DSP wages in each state in 1989 were obtained from Braddock and Mitchell (1992). In 34 states, non-state community average beginning DSP wages and/or average wages for all DSPs could be compared with DSP wages in state-operated institutions. In 10 states, beginning and/or total average non-state community DSP wages were compared with wages of DSPs in state-operated community services. In six states, wage statistics were compared for DSPs in non-state community services and both state-operated institutions and state-operated community services.

Results

Current Wages

Table 1 summarizes wage statistics gathered from each of the states. These statistics include: a) average beginning (Av Begin) and overall average wages (Av All) for DSPs in state-operated services, broken down by “institutions” (16 or more residents) and state-operated community services; b) average beginning and average for all DSPs in non-state community services, including private and local government (“Year” refers to the effective date of the reported non-state averages); c) state average hourly wages as reported by the Department of Labor for 2000; d) non-state average beginning and average for all DSPs as a proportion of the averages for DSPs in state-operated services; and e) the average wages for all state and non-state DSPs as a proportion of the average hourly wage for all employees in the state in 2000.

Average Beginning Wages

State-Operated Services. Nationally, the average of state averages (unweighted by the number of DSPs in each state) for beginning DSP wages in state-operated services was $9.49 per hour. The average beginning wages in state-operated community services (12 states) was $9.34. The average beginning wage for DSPs in state institutions was $9.51. There was a wide range among the states: in 2000, the average beginning wage for DSPs in state-operated services was less than $7.00 per hour in 8 states, and more than $11.00 per hour in 10 states.

Non-State Services. Nationally, the average beginning salary for DSPs working in non-state agencies was $7.33 per hour. As with the state DSPs, the range across states was notable. It was, however, less notable than within state-operated services. Ten (of 26) states reported average starting wages of less than $7.00 per hour, with no state re-porting an average starting wage of $9.00 per hour or higher.

Overall Average Wages

State-Operated Services. Nationally, the average reported wage for all DSPs working in state-operated services was $11.67 per hour. The average for DSPs in state-operated community services (9 states reporting) was $11.76 per hour. State average ranged from less than $8.00 per hour in 3 states to more than $13.00 in 14 states.

Non-State Services. Nationally, the average reported wage for all DSPs working for non-state residential service agencies was $8.68 per hour. The average DSP wages ranged from less than $7.00 in 3 states to $10.00 or more in 7 states.

Comparison of State and Non-State Wages

Comparisons were made of state and non-state DSP wages in states in which there were both state and non-state DSPs and for which both statistics were available. Direct comparisons of average beginning wages were made in 24 states, including 22 comparisons of state institution DSPs to non-state DSPs and 7 comparisons of state community DSPs to non-state community DSPs. Among these 29 total comparisons, in only one (Missouri state institution to non-state community) was the average beginning wage of non-state DSPs reported to be higher. On average, non-state community DSPs had starting hourly wages that were only 77.2% of those of state employees.

The average discrepancy between average wages of all DSPs was even greater. Non-state DSPs averaged less than three quarters (74.4%) of the hourly wage paid to state DSPs. The greatest proportional differences between average wages for all state and non-state DSPs in the 31 states in which comparisons could be made were in California (non-state wages were 53.9% of state), Minnesota (56.8%), Pennsylvania (57.6%), and Connecticut (57.9%).

Average DSP Wages as Proportion of State Hourly Average

Comparisons between state and non-state DSP average hourly wages and overall average wages showed both state and non-state DSPs to fall far below the state averages. State DSPs averaged only 74.4% of the average wages in their respective states, while non-state DSPs averaged barely half (55.4%) of the average state wage. The one-third of reported states with non-state DSPs earning the lowest proportion of average state wages were California (51.7%), Colorado (49.2%), Georgia (48.6%), Illinois (49.2%), Maryland (49.4%), Massachusetts (45.8%), Minnesota (51.7%), New Jersey (46.5%), Oklahoma (48.2%), Pennsylvania (49.7%), Texas (44.8%), and West Virginia (50.3%). The only states with average non-state DSP wages exceeding 70% of the state average were South Dakota and Vermont (both 72%). The only DSPs to earn 90% or more of a state’s average wage were state DSPs in California (95.9%), Iowa (103.0%), Maine (102.8%), Minnesota (91.1%), Nevada (97.0%) and Wisconsin (97.0%).


Table 1: State and Non-State DSP Hourly Wages

State
State-Operated Services
Non-State Community Services
State's Average Hourly Pay in 2000 ($)3
Non-State Community DSP Wages as Proportion of State DSP Wages
Average State and Non-State DSP Wages as a Proportion of State's Average Hourly Wage
Type*
Average Begin $
Average All $
Average Begin $
Average All $
Year
Average Begin
Average All
State
Non-State
AL I 6.96 8.80 5.76 7.43 2002 13.96 0.828 0.844 0.630 0.532
AK C NA NA 10.38 1998 16.90 0.614
AZ I 11.29 2002 15.68 0.720 0.638
C 11.154 10.00 2002 15.68 0.897 0.711
AR I 7.71 9.60 6.002 8.252 2002 12.65 0.778 0.859 0.759 0.652
CA I 14.45 18.99 10.24 2000 19.81 0.539 0.959 0.517
CO I 9.15 12.20 7.41 8.805 2000 17.87 0.810 0.721 0.683 0.492
C 9.73 12.42 7.41 8.80 2000 17.87 0.762 0.709 0.695 0.492
CT I 14.86 19.18 8.602 11.102 2001 21.87 0.579 0.579 0.877 0.508
DE I 9.52 11.75 7.23 9.294 2001 17.56 0.759 0.791 0.669 0.529
DC C NA NA 25.46
FL I 8.31 11.07 7.634 2002 14.69 0.689 0.753 0.519
GA I 8.44 10.50 8.00 2002 16.45 0.762 0.638 0.486
HI I NA NA 14.73
ID I 10.31 11.59 7.13 8.044 2002 13.32 0.692 0.870
IL I 8.87 12.43 8.642 8.992 2002 18.29 0.974 0.723 0.680 0.492
IN I 8.87 12.18 7.50e 10.00e 2002 14.92 0.846 0.821 0.816 0.670
IA I 11.56 13.83 7.07 9.32 2000 13.43 0.612 0.674 1.030 0.694
KS I 8.50 10.98 7.68 2001 14.12 0.699 0.778 0.544
KY I 8.63 9.52 5.252 2001 13.85 0.608 0.688
LA I 5.62 7.65 5.252 5.884 2001 13.41 0.934 0.571
C 6.52 7.064 5.25 5.884 2001 13.41 0.805 0.527
ME C 12.24 13.674 8.40 2001 13.30 0.686 1.028
MD I 8.16 11.75 8.64 2002 17.50 0.735 0.672 0.494
MA I 10.26 12.04 6.09 9.732 2002 21.23 0.594 0.808 0.670 0.458
C 11.67 13.00 6.09 9.732 2002 21.23 0.522 0.748 0.612 0.458
MI I 12.33 15.57 17.79 0.875
MN I 11.54 15.51 8.11 8.81 2000 17.03 0.703 0.568 0.911 0.517
C 9.27 8.11 8.81 2000 17.03 0.875 0.517
MS I 6.95 7.89 12.12 0.651
C 6.47 12.12
MO I 7.23 8.31 8.13 10.04 2002 15.09 1.124 1.208 0.551 0.665
C 10.36 8.13 10.04 2002 15.09 0.785 0.665
MT I 7.21 8.99 6.34 2000 11.67 0.705 0.770 0.543
NE I 8.59 9.63 13.31 0.724
NV I 10.36 15.05 9.00 2002 15.52 0.598 0.970 0.580
NH NA NA 8.67 2001 16.70 0.519
NJ I 9.58 13.25 9.776 2002 21.00 0.737 0.631 0.465
NM C 7.22 10.00 5.90 13.22 0.817 0.756
NY I 10.12 13.25 8.607 1999 21.81 0.850 0.608
NC I 8.75 10.55 2002 14.94 0.706
C 9.08 11.66 2002 14.94 0.781
ND I 7.36 8.65 11.87 0.729
OH I 11.81 13.41 8.26 9.60 2001 15.63 0.699 0.716 0.858 0.614
OK I 6.83 8.34 6.258 2001 12.98 0.749 0.643 0.482
OR C 9.80 13.13 9.04 2001 15.76 0.688 0.833 0.574
PA I 10.12 14.11 7.724 8.132 1999 16.35 0.763 0.576 0.863 0.497
RI NA NA 7.75 9.47 2001 15.68 0.604
SC I 6.80 7.88 2001 13.55 0.000 0.582 0.000
SD I 8.59 9.73 7.864 8.574 2001 11.92 0.915 0.881 0.816 0.719
TN I 8.24 8.57 6.739 7.719 2000 14.69 0.817 0.900 0.583 0.525
TX I 7.79 8.56 7.52 2002 16.80 0.879 0.510 0.448
C 7.63 7.5210 2002 16.80 0.448
UT I 7.72 8.54 7.40 8.44 2001 14.05 0.959 0.988 0.608 0.601
VT NA NA 8.40 9.98 2002 13.90 0.718
VA I 8.96 10.39 11.44 2001 16.91 1.101 0.608 0.677
WA I 10.46 14.52 8.75 9.76 2001 17.84 0.837 0.672 0.814 0.547
C 12.07 13.25 8.75 9.76 2001 17.84 0.725 0.737 0.743 0.547
WV NA NA 2002 12.93 0.503
WI I 11.47 14.32 14.76 0.970
WY I 6.94 8.95 6.79 7.37 2002 12.90 0.978 0.823 0.694 0.571
U.S. Average $9.49 $11.67 $7.33 $8.68 $15.68 0.772 0.744 0.744 0.554

* I = State Institutions; C = State-Operated Community Services e = estimate 1. Reported by State MR/DD agency (assumed unless "2" is indicated). 2. Reported by the state association of private service providers. 3. Average hourly pay in 2000 was derived from Bureau of Labor Statistics. Summaries of average annual pay for workers covered by unemployment insurance in each state. Average annual pay for each was divided by 2080 for a common hourly metric (the original link that was printed with this brief, http://stats/blx/newsrelease.annpay.t01.htm, no longer works - however this new link may provide the same or equivalent information, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/annpay.t01.htm). 4. Median, not average. 5. Includes providers subcontracted by community centered boards. 6. With high school diplomas ($11.01 with AA, $12.32 with BA). H.S. diploma reported because most common level of education of DSPs. 7. Average of average starting wages for Region 1 (NYC), Region 2 (suburban NYC), and rest of state for 1999 ($7.63) with adjustments as provided by state legislature for FY 2000 (5.0%), FY 2001 (3.52%), and FY 2002 (3.69%). 8. The 2000 Wage and Benefit Survey conducted by the Oklahoma Community-Based Providers, Inc. calculated an average wage of $6.31 in 2001 (as compared with an average of $6.25 computed in the 2001 HTS Wage Benefit Survey). 9. Figures for "residential habilitation" (agency-owned/controlled settings; average starting and average for supported living $6.81 and $7.52, respectively). 10. Texas' average wage is the midpoint between the average for community non-ICFs-MR ($7.33) and community ICFs-MR ($7.70).

Changes in DSP Wages, 1989 and 2000

Table 2 presents changes between 1989 and 2000 (plus or minus two years depending on the year of the report) in average hourly beginning wages and average wages for all DSPs. Changes for both state and non-state DSPs are provided in terms of both total dollar increases and percentage increases. The statistics for 1989 are drawn from Braddock and Mitchell (1992). Statistics are not reported for states in which the range of the 95% confidence interval of estimate exceeds 10% of the total estimate. In 47 states, at least one set of statistics was available for 1989 and 2000 to allow comparison of reported average DSP wages for beginning and/or all employees of state and/or non-state residential services.

State DSPs. In 42 states, there were statistics to present comparison of 1989 and 2000 wages of state DSPs. In all but 3 states both average beginning and average all DSP wages could be compared. Between 1989 and 2000, the average increase in starting wages for state employees in DSP roles was $3.22. This represented a 51.3% average increase of beginning salaries of state DSPs over the period. The reported increases varied from less than 50% of the average increase (i.e., an increase of $1.61 or less per hour) in 4 states to more than 150% (i.e., an increase of $4.83 or more per hour) in 2 states. The greatest dollar increase in average beginning wages was in California (an increase of $6.46 to $14.45 per hour). The largest percentage increase was in Kentucky (an increase of 98% to an average beginning wage of $8.63). Between 1989 and 2000, average wages for all state-employed DSPs increased by $3.50 as compared to an average beginning salary increase of $3.22, although as a proportion of 1989 wages, the average increase for all DSPs was slightly less (42.8%) than the average increase in beginning salaries (51.3%). California reported the greatest average dollar increase ($5.96), but the greatest percentage increases (70% or more) were in Delaware, Idaho, and Indiana.

Non-State DSPs. In 35 states, there were statistics to permit comparison of 1989 and 2000 average beginning wages or average wages for all DSPs in non-state residential services. Between 1989 and 2000, average starting wages for non-state DSPs increased by $2.21, or 43.2%. Based on all reporting states, the average starting wage of non-state DSPs experienced less proportional growth than state DSP average starting wages (which increased by 51.3%). The actual amount of the difference in wage increase was on average $1.01 less for non-state DSPs, leaving the average starting wage of non-state DSPs in 2000 $2.16 per hour less than the starting wage of state DSPs. The average wage of all non-state DSPs also fell further behind those of state DSPs over the period, despite a slightly greater percentage increase than state DSPs (44.9% and 42.8%, respectively). Between 1989 and 2000, average non-state DSP wages increased by $2.69 as compared with an average increase of $3.50 for state DSPs. The greatest actual increases in beginning and average wages of non-state DSPs between 1989 and 2000 were in Illinois, Washington, Missouri and Ohio. The largest proportional increases were in Illinois, South Dakota and Utah. Increases of 20% or less were reported in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Montana, and Oklahoma.


Table 2: Changes in Average Starting and Average Wages for DSPs, 1989-2000

19891 20002 Changes from 1989-2000 in Amount ($) and Percent (%)
State3 Non-State State3 Non-State State Non-State
Avg. Begin $ Avg. All $ Avg. Begin $ Avg. All $ Avg. Begin $ Avg. All $ Avg. Begin $ Avg. All $ Begin $ Avg. Begin % Avg. All $ Avg. All % Avg. Begin $ Avg. Begin % Avg. All $ Avg. All %
AL 5.49 6.75 4.16 4.63 6.96 8.80 5.76 7.43 1.47 26.8 2.05 30.4 1.60 38.5 2.80 60.5
AK 9.93 12.50 7.41 8.54 NA NA 10.38 1.84 21.5
AZ 6.23 7.49 11.29 10.00 3.80 50.7
AR 5.51 7.46 7.71 9.60 6.00 8.25 2.20 39.9 2.41 32.3
CA 7.99 13.03 5.16 5.80 14.45 18.99 10.24 6.46 80.9 5.96 45.7 4.44 76.6
CO 5.23 8.58 4.96 6.23 9.15 12.20 7.41 8.80 3.92 75.0 2.57 30.0 2.45 49.4 2.57 41.3
CT 10.94 12.84 8.13 9.28 14.86 19.18 8.60 9.99 3.92 35.8 6.34 49.4 0.47 5.8 0.71 7.7
DE 5.47 6.79 5.57 (a) 9.52 11.75 7.23 9.29 4.05 74.0 4.96 73.0 1.66 29.8
FL 6.13 7.96 4.33 4.80 8.31 11.07 7.63 2.18 35.6 3.11 39.1 2.83 59.0
GA 5.93 6.66 (a) (a) 8.44 10.50 8.00 2.51 42.3 3.84 57.7
ID 5.94 6.80 4.58 5.48 10.31 11.59 7.13 8.04 4.37 73.6 4.79 70.4 2.55 55.7 2.56 46.7
IL 6.89 9.93 4.45 5.10 8.87 12.43 8.64 8.99 1.98 28.7 2.50 25.2 4.19 94.2 3.89 76.3
IN 5.45 7.09 4.75 5.39 8.87 12.18 7.50 10.00 3.42 62.8 5.09 71.8 2.75 57.9 4.61 85.5
IA 8.18 9.66 4.674 5.254 11.56 13.83 7.07 9.32 3.38 41.3 4.17 43.2 2.40 51.4 4.07 78.0
KS 6.39 9.26 4.56 5.45 8.50 10.98 7.68 2.11 33.0 1.72 18.6 2.23 40.9
KY 4.36 6.61 4.05 4.91 8.63 9.52 5.25 4.27 97.9 2.91 44.0 1.20 29.6
LA 4.86 6.46 4.27 4.59 5.62 7.65 5.25 5.88 0.76 15.6 1.19 18.4 0.98 23.0 1.29 28.1
ME 7.00 8.49 5.74 6.86 12.24 13.67 8.40 5.24 74.9 5.18 61.0 2.66 46.3
MD 6.46 8.08 5.66 6.67 8.16 11.75 8.64 1.70 26.3 3.67 45.4 1.97 29.5
MA 7.63 8.44 6.34 8.19 10.26 12.04 7.09 9.73 2.63 34.5 3.60 42.7 0.85 13.4 1.54 18.8
MN 7.95 11.16 5.46 6.51 11.54 15.51 8.11 8.81 3.59 45.2 4.63 41.5 2.65 48.5 2.30 35.3
MS 4.07 4.77 3.73 (a) 6.95 7.89 2.88 70.8 3.12 65.4
MO 5.49 6.24 4.804 5.414 7.23 8.31 8.13 10.04 1.74 31.7 2.07 33.2 3.31 69.4 4.63 86.0
MT 5.89 6.71 5.15 5.35 7.21 8.99 6.34 1.32 22.4 2.28 34.0 0.99 18.5
NE 5.78 7.15 4.74 5.30 8.59 9.63 2.81 48.6 2.48 34.7
NV 7.59 9.63 (a) (a) 10.36 15.05 9.00 2.77 36.5 5.42 56.3
NH 6.68 6.94 6.19 6.71 8.67 1.96 29.2
NJ 6.36 8.84 6.59 7.56 9.58 13.25 9.77 3.22 50.6 4.41 49.9 2.21 29.2
NM 4.59 6.38 4.96 5.47 7.22 10.00 5.90 2.63 57.3 3.62 56.7 0.94 19.0
NY 8.01 9.77 5.99 6.83 10.12 13.25 8.60 2.11 26.3 3.48 35.6 2.61 43.6
NC 6.61 7.90 4.77 5.50 8.75 10.55 2.14 32.4 2.65 33.5
ND 5.37 6.14 4.40 5.21 7.36 8.65 1.99 37.1 2.51 40.9
OH 8.22 9.08 4.97 5.58 11.81 13.41 8.26 9.60 3.59 43.7 4.33 47.7 3.29 66.2 4.02 72.0
OK 5.09 6.40 4.49 5.23 6.83 8.34 6.25 1.74 34.2 1.94 30.3 1.02 19.5
OR 7.19 7.99 4.66 5.26 9.80 13.13 9.04 2.61 36.3 5.16 64.6 3.78 71.9
PA 6.23 9.10 5.46 6.14 10.12 14.11 7.72 8.13 3.89 62.4 5.01 55.1 2.26 41.4 1.99 32.4
RI 8.84 10.16 7.42 7.75 7.75 9.47 0.33 4.4 1.72 22.2
SC 5.75 7.19 4.69 5.25 6.80 7.88 1.05 18.3 0.69 9.6
SD 5.23 6.30 4.49 5.54 8.59 9.73 7.86 8.57 3.36 64.2 3.43 54.4 3.37 75.1 3.03 54.7
TN 4.31 6.40 4.20 4.38 8.24 8.57 6.73 7.71 3.93 91.2 2.17 33.9 2.53 60.2 3.33 76.0
TX 5.64 6.22 4.40 4.82 7.79 8.56 7.52 2.15 38.1 2.34 37.6 2.70 56.0
UT 5.51 7.25 4.27 4.98 7.72 8.54 7.40 8.44 2.21 40.1 1.29 17.8 3.13 73.3 3.46 69.5
VT 6.76 8.59 5.94 7.26 NA NA 8.40 9.98 2.46 41.4 27.2 37.5
VA 5.75 7.60 (a) (a) 8.96 10.39 11.44 3.21 55.8 2.79 36.7
WA 7.72 9.61 5.28 6.02 10.46 14.52 8.75 9.76 2.74 35.5 4.91 51.1 3.47 65.7 3.74 62.1
WV 4.26 5.22 4.03 5.03 NA NA 6.50 1.47 29.2
WI 7.21 9.00 4.66 5.26 11.47 14.32 4.26 59.1 5.32 59.1
WY 5.61 6.79 (a) (a) 6.94 8.95 6.79 7.37 1.33 23.7 2.16 31.8
U.S. Avg. $6.37 $8.03 $5.12 $5.99 $9.49 $11.67 $7.33 $8.68 $3.22 51.3% $3.50 42.8% $2.21 43.2% $2.69 44.9%

1. Estimates for 1989 from Braddock, D., & Mitchell, D. (1992); Residential services and developmental disabilities in the United States. Washington, DC: American Association on Mental Retardation. 2. Statistics for "2000" are variously from 1998 to 2000 as indicated in Table 1. 3. State institution wages are from Prouty, R., et al., (2001). Residential services for persons with developmental disabilities: Status and trends through 2000. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, RTC/ICI. 4. "Non-state" includes county-operated settings. (a) Indicates unreliable estimations with 95% confidence interval of estimate greater than 10% of total estimate or insufficient sample for estimate. * District of Columbia, Hawaii, and Michigan are not shown because statistics were not available.

Discussion

Despite the greater autonomy of DSPs working in non-state community services, their average wage was only three-quarters (75.9%) of the average wage of state DSPs. In only 13 of 63 available comparisons of average wages for beginning or for all DSPs did the wages for non-state community DSPs equal 85% or more of the average wage for state employees. Over the past decade, as state DSPs were experiencing an average $3.50 hourly increase in salary, salary increases for non-state community DSPs were only on average $2.69. The discrepancy between average state and non-state DSP wages is not the result of particularly high wages for state employees. Average state DSP wages in 44 states in 2000 were only 74% of the average wage in these states. In only six of the states did state DSPs earn 90% or more of the state’s average wage as reported by the Department of Labor. On average non-state DSPs earned only 55% of the average state wage in 2000. In no state did non-state DSPs earn 75% of their state’s average wage. In 9 states they averaged less than half the state’s average wage for all employees.

References

  • Braddock D., & Mitchell, D. (1992). Residential services and developmental disabilities in the United States: A national survey of staff compensation, turnover and related services. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Mental Retardation.
  • Lakin, K.C., & Bruininks, R. H. (1981). Occupational stability of direct care staff of residential facilities for mentally retarded people. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Research and Training Center on Community Living.
  • Larson, S.A., Lakin, K.C., & Hewitt, A. (2002). Direct support professionals. In R.L. Schalock, P. Baker and M.D. Crosser (Eds.), Embarking on a new century: Mental retardation at the end of the 20th century (pp. 203-220). Washington, D.C.: American Association on Mental Retardation.
  • Prouty, R.W., Smith, S., & Lakin, K.C., Eds. (2002). Residential services for persons with developmental disabilities: Status and trends through 2001. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Research and Training Center on Community Living.

Appendix: Responses from Individual States

All Large State Residential Facilities

All large state residential facility (state institutions with 16 or more residents) statistics on the average beginning wage and average wage for all direct support professionals (DSPs) were gathered through direct surveys of all large state facilities (with 16 or more residents). The overall response rate of the state institutions was 90.4% (169 of 187). Individual state statistics were computed by weighting the average of each facility by the number of full-time DSPs it reported.

Non-State and State Community Services

Average beginning and overall average wages of DSPs in state and non-state community services as well as information on laws and other initiatives affecting those wages were obtained through surveys of state MR/DD program agencies and state private service provider associations. The responses received are summarized below.

Alabama. The office of the Director of Mental Retardation Community Programs reported current beginning ($5.76), high ($12.50), and average ($7.43) hourly wages of direct support professionals (DSPs) in non-state community residential settings. The Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation reported that there have been no specific recent legislative or other state government actions to improve the wages of direct support professionals serving persons with ID/DD in community residential settings.

Alaska. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported that in 1998 the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education sponsored the Developmental Disabilities Provider Direct Service Worker Study. That study found the weighted average hourly wage of non-state community DSPs to be $10.38 and the weighted median hourly wage to be $10.53. In 2000, the Alaska legislature appropriated $960,000 for the enhancement of DSP wages.

Arizona. The offices of the Assistant Director of the Arizona Division of Developmental Disabilities provided the range of DSP wages in state-operated community residential settings ($9.30 to $13.00, computed median of $11.15) and in non-state community residential settings ($9.00 to $11.00, computed median of $10.00). The 2002 Arizona legislature appropriated, effective July 1, 2002, $7,745,300 in state general fund monies; $1,407,400 in long-term care system fund monies; and $10,379,500 in federal Title XIX monies to increase payments to service providers. While not specifically earmarked to improve wages and benefits, the legislative intent is that a large proportion of these monies will be applied to that purpose.

Arkansas. The Arkansas Division of Developmental Disabilities Services reported that it had no recent studies, reports or summaries about, or recent legislative or other state government action to improve the wages of direct support professionals serving persons with ID/DD in community residential settings. The Arkansas Developmental Disabilities Provider Association reported that in 2002, average starting wages for DSPs were $6.00 per hour and average wages for all DSPs were $8.25 per hour in community residential settings.

California. The California Department of Developmental Services provided an October 1999 report of the state auditor, Department of Developmental Services: Without sufficient state funding, it cannot furnish optimal services to developmentally disabled adults. It also provided a January 2002 University of Southern California study evaluating the impact of the legislatively mandated 1999 and 2000 wage increases on staff turnover for direct support professionals in licensed community care facilities for persons with ID/DD. The findings of the latter study are presented in Table 3. The California Legislature responded to the state auditor’s 1999 report with residential rate increases of 9.3% for FY1999 and 9.8% for FY2000. It mandated that those funds be used to increase DSP wages and benefits or to provide coverage enabling their attendance at training classes.


Table 3: Changes in Hourly Wage, by Service Level, of Direct Support Professionals in California 1998-2000

Service Level Mean Wage Before the Rate Increase (1998) Mean Wage After the First Rate Increase (1999) Mean Wage After the Second Wage Increase (2000)
L2/3O (Owner on site) $7.59 $8.23 $9.82
L2/3S (Staff operated) $7.83 $8.83 $9.82
L4A-F (Staff operated) $6.90 $9.49 $11.37
L4G-I (Staff operated) $7.69 $9.64 $10.64
Grand Mean (Owner and staff operated included) $7.56 $9.02 $10.18
Grand Mean (Staff operated only) $7.55 $9.13 $10.24

Colorado. An August 2000 study prepared for the Colorado Office of Developmental Disabilities Services included the hourly wage information for developmental disabilities organizations’ full-time direct support professionals presented in Table 4. The Colorado legislature’s response to this survey and the July 2001 Staffing Stability Survey was a FY2002 budget increase of 5.3% and an FY2003 increase of 2.0% earmarked for wages, benefits, recruitment, and training for direct support professionals, with a similar request still pending for FY2004.


Table 4: Hourly Wage Information in Colorado

Organization Type Average Begin Average Maximum Weighted All DSP Average
Community Centered Boards (CCBs contract directly with state) $7.15 $10.51 $8.55
CCB -- Providers (Subcontract from CCBs) $7.41 $10.33 $8.80
State Regional Centers $9.73 $14.45 $12.42

Connecticut. The state provider association’s 2001 Salary and Benefits Survey reported hourly wages for direct support professionals by provider operating budgets. See Table 5. The Connecticut General Assembly gave private providers a 3.5% cost-of living-adjustment (COLA) in FY2002 and proposed a 1.5% COLA for FY 2003.


Table 5: Wages by Provider Operating Budgets in Connecticut

Budget Size Low High Average
$25,000-$500,000 $8.00 $13.00 $10.20
$500,001-$1,000,000 $9.00 $14.00 $11.00
$1,000,001-$5,000,000 $10.38 $16.00 $11.89
$5,000,001-$10,000,000+ $7.00 $20.67 $11.32

Delaware. The Delaware Division of Developmental Disabilities Services reported the results of three annual surveys of residential direct care salaries of program associates (see Table 6). The Delaware legislature appropriated funds for a 2.0% salary increase to DSPs in community residential settings for FY2001 and an additional 2.0% for FY2002.


Table 6: Delaware Annual Survey Results

Year Low Hourly Wage High Hourly Wage Median Hourly Wage
1999 $6.57 $11.42 $8.29
2000 $6.63 $11.44 $8.13
2001 $7.23 $11.78 $9.29

District of Columbia. The District of Columbia Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Administration did not respond to the survey.

Florida. The Florida Department of Children and Families, Director’s Office provided the current range of hourly wages for DSPs serving persons with ID/DD in community residential settings ($5.25 to $10.00) from which a median was computed ($7.63). The Department did not identify any recent studies, reports, or summaries about wages of DSPs in community residential settings, but did report legislation that provided, beginning in FY2001, up to a 3.0% rate increase for community providers requiring that, from any such increase, DSPs shall first receive a 3.0% wage increase.

Georgia. The Georgia Division of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse, Office of the Mental Retardation Program Chief reported the average wage for a full-time DSP in non-state community residential settings was $8.00 per hour. The Governor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Community Based Services recommended that all service contracts include annual COLAs to increase pay for DSPs. The Governor’s FY2002 budget proposed a 4.0% provider rate increase.

Hawaii. The Hawaii Developmental Disabilities Division reported that there have been no recent studies, reports, or summaries about, or recent legislative or other state government action to improve, the wages of direct support professionals serving persons with ID/DD in community residential settings.

Idaho. The Idaho Bureau of Developmental Disabilities provided current beginning ($7.13) and high ($9.00) hourly wages of non-state agency DSPs, from which a median hourly wage ($8.07) was computed. It reported that there have been no recent reports or summaries about, or recent legislative or other state government action to improve the wages of DSPs in community residential settings.

Illinois. The Illinois Office of Developmental Disabilities did not identify any recent studies, reports, or summaries about wages of DSPs in community residential settings. It did report that the Illinois General Assembly appropriated $77,000,000 to provide a $1.00 hourly wage increase to DSPs, effective retroactively for 4 months of FY2001 and all of FY2002. The Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities’ 2002 Salary Survey of Community Rehabilitation Programs reported DSP hourly wages in community residential settings ranged from $8.64 to $11.06, averaging $8.99.

Indiana. The Indiana Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services reported current beginning ($7.50), high ($12.00), and average ($10.00) hourly wages for DSPs. The bureau indicated that there had been no recent studies or legislative or other state government actions to improve the wages of DSPs in community residential settings.

Iowa. The Iowa Division of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities did not report any studies, reports, or summaries about, or recent legislative or other state government action to improve wages of DSPs in community residential settings. The Iowa Association of Community Providers provided two recent reports about wages of DSPs, its own 1998 Salary Survey and the 2000 Community Providers Wage Survey by Williams and Associates, Mason City, including the data provided in Table 7. The association also noted that there have been no recent legislative or other state government actions to improve wages of DSPs.


Table 7: Wages of Community Support Providers in Iowa

Year Beginning Average Hourly Wage Average Hourly Wage After 10 or More Years of Employment
1998 $6.80 $8.82
2000 $7.07 $9.32

Kansas. The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services reported a 2001 study, Review of Rate Structure for Community Developmental Disabilities, that found the average hourly wage of DSPs in community residential settings to be $7.68 per hour. It recommended an annual COLA with a 3.0% increase for FY2002. The recommended rate increase was not supported by the legislature for either FY2002 or FY2003. The legislature appropriated $6.8 mil-lion for a one-time “enhancement” of wages of direct support professionals as either a bonus or benefits increase in FY2002.

Kentucky. The Kentucky Division of Mental Retardation reported that the best available estimates of DSP wages were gathered in the state’s informal 2001 wage survey showing a range of $5.25 to $9.75 per hour for DSPs. The Division of Mental Retardation reported that there were no recent legislative or other government actions to improve DSP wages.

Louisiana. The Louisiana Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities reported that it had conducted no recent studies or reports about DSP wages in non-state community settings. It observed that there have been no recent legislative or other state government actions to improve the wages of DSPs in non-state services. The office was able to report a current range of low ($6.52) to high ($7.60) hourly wages of DSPs serving persons in state community residential settings, from which a median of $7.06 was computed. The Louisiana Community and Residential Services Association reported a current range of low ($5.25) to high ($6.50) hourly wages of DSPs in non-state community residential settings, from which a median of $5.88 was computed.

Maine. The Maine Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services reported a 1997 report to the legislature of the Commission to Determine the Adequacy of Services to Persons with Mental Retardation. In response to this report, the legislature directed the department to study and make recommendations for improving such services. The Wage Fairness Task Force, composed of department staff and representatives of the Maine Association for Community Service Providers, recommended a base hourly wage of $8.15 with a 3.0% increase for DSPs paid more than $8.15 per hour, effective July 1, 1999. The director’s office reported the current range of wages for DSPs in state community residential settings to be $12.24 to $15.09 per hour.

In 2000, the legislature authorized a 2.5% wage increase for direct support professionals, and in 2001 an additional 2.5% increase, with the department adding an additional 2.5% increase to that authorized by the legislature in 2001. On July 1, 2002 the legislature authorized a further 2.5% salary increase. Increases were intended to bring the minimum wages of direct support professionals to $8.40 per hour.

Maryland. The Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration provided a 2002 report, Report to the Joint Chairmen (Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and House Appropriations Committee) on a Comparison of Salaries and Benefits of Developmental Disabilities Community Service Workers to Those of State Employees. The report’s findings included a comparison of state wages to those in the Community Services Reimbursement Rate Commission survey (see Table 8). In addition, the mean fringe benefit rate paid by community non-state providers was 20.7%. This compared with the equivalent state fringe benefit rate of 31.6% for state employees.

The cost of equalizing wages and fringe benefits to DSPs in non-state community residential settings with those of state direct support professionals, given the current longevity of employment of community employees, was estimated to be more than $80 million, divided about equally between wages and benefits. A five-year phase-in was proposed to bring community non-state wages to state equivalency.

Senate Bill 432 passed by the Maryland Legislature increases the rate of reimbursement for non-state community service providers annually to eliminate the wage/benefit disparity on or before July 1, 2006. All increases in the rate of reimbursement will be used to increase the compensation of non-state community direct support professionals.


Table 8: Comparison of Community and State Wages in Maryland

CSRRC Survey Position Mean Hourly Wage Equivalent State Position Mean Hourly Wage for Equivalent Grade
Aide $8.64 Direct Care Assistant $10.50

Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation, Office of Administration and Finance, reported the data presented in Table 9 for FY2002. The Massachusetts legislature appropriated, for FY2002, a reserve of $5,000,000 “to adjust the wages, compensation or salary and associated employee-related costs to personnel earning less than $20,000 in annual compensation who are employed by private human service providers that deliver human and social services under contracts with departments within the executive office of health and human services and the executive office of elder affairs.” This appropriation applied to more than just DSP wages, but DSPs did benefit from it.

The Massachusetts Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers supplied a copy of a study directed by the Operational Services Division of the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, Study of the Impact of Salary Reserve, FY1997 to FY2000, and also cited the above-reported legislation.


Table 9: Comparison of State and Non-State Wages in Massachusetts

Type of Service Beginning Hourly Wage Maximum Hourly Wage Average Hourly Wage
State Community Services $11.67 $14.75 $13.00
Non-State Community Services $6.09 $18.46 $9.73

Michigan. The Michigan Mental Health and Substance Abuse Agency reported there have been no recent studies, reports or summaries about, or recent legislative or other state government actions to improve the wages of DSPs in community residential settings.

Minnesota. Minnesota’s Community Supports for Minnesotans with Disabilities cited the data in Table 10 from the 2000 study, An Independent Evaluation of the Quality of Services and System Performance of Minnesota’s Medicaid Home and Community Based Services for Persons with Mental Retardation and Related Conditions. Direct support professionals in state community residential settings had an average beginning wage of $9.27 per hour and average highest wage of $14.65 per hour. The Minnesota Legislature increased reimbursements to providers by 5.0% in 1997, 3.0% in 1998, 4.0% in 1999, 6.0% in 2000, 3.0% in 2001, and 3.0% in 2002, specifying that the major portion of the increases should be used for wage and benefit increases for direct support professionals. The Minnesota private provider association (AARM) reported the same sources and legislative commitments.


Table 10: Minnesota Non-State Direct Support Professional Wages (Provider Survey)

Non-State DSP Wages Twin Cities Metro Counties Non-Twin Cities Urban Counties Rural Counties State Average
Average Starting Wage $8.81 $7.44 $7.67 $8.11
Average Mean Wage $9.41 $8.12 $8.60 $8.81
Average Highest Wage $10.40 $9.55 $9.83 $10.02

Mississippi. The Mississippi Bureau of Mental Retardation reported there have been no recent studies, reports or summaries about, or recent legislative or other state government actions to improve, the wages of DSPs in non-state community residential settings. The director supplied the beginning ($6.47) and highest ($11.32) hourly wage for “Direct Care Trainees” in state-operated community residential settings.

Missouri. The Missouri Division of MR/DD provided a summary of the 2000 study “Significant Facts on the Caregiver Workforce in Missouri (People who care for elderly and disabled citizens),” reporting an average hourly wage of $10.04. The Division of MR/DD supplied the average starting wage for DSPs in non-state community settings ($8.00 – $8.25) and in state-operated community settings ($10.36).

The Missouri Legislature in FY2000 appropriated $1.5 million for a 1.5% increase in DSP wages, requiring provider agencies to provide a 1.5% increase match. Providers were reimbursed through contract amendments to assure funding went only to community DSP wages and benefits. In FY2001, the legislature appropriated $2.7 million for another 3% wage and benefit increase for DSPs. In FY2002, the legislature appropriated $9.9 million for a $1.00 increase in hourly wage and benefits for community DSPs. The Missouri Association of Rehabilitation Facilities also noted the legislative efforts described above.

Montana. The Montana Disabilities Services Division reported that, while there had been no studies, reports, or summaries prepared about wages of direct support professionals serving persons with ID/DD in community residential settings, there was such a study underway. The Montana legislature appropriated funds for a 4.5% increase in DSP wages in the first year of the current biennium, FY2002, and for a 9.2% increase in the second year, FY2003. A Wage Study Comparison for the Year 2000 Completed between the DPHHS Disability Services Division and the Montana Association of Independent Disability Services – MAIDS reported the average hourly wage for a private provider “Habilitation Tech I” was $6.34.

Nebraska. The Nebraska Developmental Disabilities System reported that there have been no recent studies or reports on wages of DSPs in community residential settings. The Nebraska legislature authorized, for FY2002, $5.8 million in combined general state and federal funds to achieve rate equity between non-state and state direct support professionals’ wages. For FY2003, the combined authorization was $10.7 million for the same purpose.

The Nebraska Association of Private Resources also reported the legislation noted by the Developmental Disabilities System.

Nevada. The Nevada Department of Developmental Services, Associate Administrator’s office, reported an estimate of $9.00 for an average hourly wage of DSPs in non-state community residential settings. It also reported that there had been no recent studies or reports or recent legislative or other state government actions to improve the wages of DSPs in community residential settings.

New Hampshire. On July 1, 2000, the New Hampshire legislature passed Senate Bill 36 to raise the average hourly wage of DSPs from $7.54 to $8.67 per hour in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2001. The New Hampshire Division of Developmental Services reported that there have been no recent studies of DSP wages.

New Jersey. The New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities cited a 2002 report of the New Jersey Direct Care Coalition reporting beginning hourly wage by level of education for DSPs. The reported beginning average hourly wages were: a) for high school graduates, $9.77; b) for associate’s degree, $11.01; c) for bachelor’s degree, $12.32; and d) for master’s degree, $12.60. The New Jersey legislature appropriated $36.9 million in FY2002 for the purpose of providing a wage increase for DSPs employed by provider agencies contracting with the Department of Human Services. In FY2003 the $36.9 million will maintain the previously authorized increase.

New Mexico. The New Mexico Long Term Services Division reported that the only recent study of wages of direct support professionals serving persons with ID/DD in community residential settings was a 2002 summary of average base wages paid to “supported living direct care staff” in non-state residences of persons receiving HCBS waiver services. The reported lowest average base wage was $5.90 per hour. The division also reported for DSPs in state community residential settings a beginning wage of $7.22 per hour and an average wage of $10.00 per hour in 2002. The New Mexico legislature appropriated $1,000,000 in FY2001 earmarked for wage increases and $800,000 in FY2002 for the same purpose. For FY2003 only cost of living appropriations were proposed.

New York. The New York Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (NYOMRDD) reported two surveys of wages of direct support professionals, both by provider associations: Fall 1998 Salary Survey of the Interagency Council of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Agencies, Inc., and the March 1999 Salary Survey of the New York Association of Community and Residential Agencies. The latter survey reported the following direct support professionals’ average starting hourly wages by rate-setting region: a) Region 1 (NYC), $8.45; b) Region 2 (suburban NYC counties), $7.52; and c) Region 3 (rest of state), $6.93.

The New York legislature has, over the past eight years, incorporated Medicaid “trend factors” (adjustments to rates that reflect trends in health care industry costs) into the state budget appropriations for DSP wage increases beyond the cost of living: 5.0% for FY2000, 3.52% for FY2001, and 3.69% for FY2002.

The New York State Rehabilitation Association and the New York State Association of Community and Residential Agencies identified the same studies and appropriations as did NYOMRDD.

North Carolina. The North Carolina Developmental Disabilities Services reported that there have been no recent studies or reports about recent legislative or other state government actions to improve the wages of DSPs in non-state community residential settings. The department was able to report, for DSPs in state community residential settings, the beginning hourly wage ($9.08), the highest hourly wage ($14.23), and the average hourly wage ($11.66) in 2002.

North Dakota. The North Dakota Developmental Disabilities Unit could not report the beginning, average, or range of hourly wages of direct support professionals serving persons with ID/DD in community residential settings, but did report hourly wage rates used to calculate state reimbursement to service provider agencies. These rates differ by type of settings and circumstances as follows, effective July 1, 2002: for group homes: 1st FTE (full time equivalent) DSP, $10.67/hr.; 2nd FTE DSP, $9.67/hr.; 3rd+ FTE DSP, $8.08/hr. For day supports, extended services, independent supported living, and in-home supports: each direct support professional, $8.62/hr. Fringe benefits for all have recently been increased from 25% to 30% of hourly pay.

Recent cost-of-living adjustments by the North Dakota legislature for DSPs have been: 2.2% for FY1997, 2.2% for FY1998, 2.0% for FY1999, 2.0% for FY2000, 2.2% for FY2001, and 2.2% for FY2002. The legislature also appropriated funds to provide average increases in the hourly pay of low-income direct support professionals of $.44 in FY1997, $.36 in FY1999, and $.10 in FY2001. It was the intent of the legislature that provider agencies pass these increases on to their DSPs, but the agencies are free from a requirement to do so by legislation that empowers provider agencies to transfer funds among line items in their authorized budgets.

Ohio. The Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities reported two recent studies of wages of DSPs serving persons with ID/DD in community residential settings. The first, 1999 Salary and Benefits Survey, by the Ohio Provider Resource Association (OPRA), reported the following comparisons of average hourly wages for DSPs: OPRA agencies, $8.32; Ohio Association of County Boards of MR/DD, $9.14; state-operated developmental centers, $12.63.

The second report, by the Association of County Boards of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities/Ohio Provider Resource Association, Direct Care and Paraprofessional Wage and Benefits Study (2001), reported beginning, maximum, and average hourly wages for direct support professionals of $8.26, $12.68, and $9.60, respectively. The Ohio Department of MR/DD indicated that there had been no recent legislation or other state government actions to improve wages of DSPs.

Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Ser-vices Division reported a 1998 study showing a summary of direct support professionals’ hourly wages before and after an authorized rate increase, with an average starting wage increase from $5.37 per hour to $5.99 per hour. The division also reported a 2001 HTS Wage/Benefit Survey, which indicated in the “Information Relevant to the Rate Increase” column that implementation of the 2001 rate increase would increase the range of DSP wages from a beginning rate of $6.25 per hour to a maximum rate of $7.50 per hour in 2002. A statement that was read into the record at the rate hearing was intended to encourage providers to pass along the rate increase to the DSPs. A 2000 Wage and Benefit Survey compiled by the Oklahoma Community-Based Providers, Inc., indicated high, low, and average wages for “direct support professionals” to be $7.00, $5.50, and $6.31 per hour, respectively.

Oregon. The Executive Summary of the 1997 Long Range Plan for Developmental Disability Services prepared by the Oregon Department of Human Resources, Mental Health and Developmental Disability Services Division, Office of Developmental Disability Services recommended increasing the capacity to recruit and retain qualified staff in the service system by increasing wages for DSPs in private nonprofit agencies by $1 per hour. The Oregon legislature has, since closure of Fairview State Hospital in 2000, provided this $1 per hour increase for non-state DSPs in the community, spread over two years.

The Direct Care Staffing Report, 2001 Statewide Summary, forwarded by the Oregon Department of Human Resources, MH/DD Services Division, reported the average wage (over 12 months) for DSPs in non-state community settings of $9.04 per hour. The Director of State-Operated Community Programs reported the high, low, and average wages for DSPs to be $13.75, $9.80, and $13.13 per hour, respectively, in 2002.

Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Office of Mental Retardation and the Pennsylvania Association of Resources for People with Mental Retardation supplied two reports of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The February 1999 report, Salary Levels and Their Impact on Quality of Care for Client Contact Workers in Community-Based MH/MR Programs, updated a similar 1989 report. It reported a beginning average hourly wage of direct support professionals as $7.72 per hour and the highest average hourly wage as $10.83, with $8.13 being the average hourly wage. The second committee report in March 2000, Commonwealth Funding of Mental Retardation Programs, determined that if a recent $19.6 million COLA increase to counties and private providers was devoted solely to increasing the wages of direct support professionals who work for private ID/DD provider organizations (which was not guaranteed), it would have raised their wages to $8.44 per hour. Pennsylvania’s Office of Mental Retardation also provided information on a $33 million effort of the Department of Public Welfare to develop recruitment, retention, and training efforts to improve the quality of direct support services.

Rhode Island. The Rhode Island Division of Developmental Disabilities cited an informal survey of the Ocean State Association of Residential Resources (OSARR). It reported the following statistics in July 2001 for starting wages of DSPs in non-state community residential settings: Range, $7.75-$10.40; Average, $9.47; and Median, $9.60. The Division of Developmental Disabilities also provided information on the beginning ($12.95) and high ($14.07) hourly wages of DSPs in state community residential settings. The division and the OSARR reported that the Rhode Island General Assembly appropriated monies for a provider rate adjustment in FY2002 of 3.8% for compensation of DSPs, including employee benefits. It further required that providers accepting this adjustment dedicate the proceeds of the adjustment to this purpose.

South Carolina. The South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, in its FY2001 budget request to the General Assembly for a Direct Contact Staff Pay Adjustment, reported that the current average wage for direct support professionals in both state and non-state community residential settings was $7.20 per hour and that the current turnover rates for these positions approach 30% per year. It requested an 8% hourly wage adjustment or an $8.00 per hour minimum wage for the 6,225 employees who have direct contact with the individuals and families the department serves. This request was funded beginning January – June 2001 (1/2 year) and then annualized in the FY 2002 budget to cover the second half of the year (July – December 2001).

South Dakota. The South Dakota Division of Developmental Disabilities reported a July 2000 study of wages of DSPs in community residential settings. The range of FY2000 wages was $6.65 per hour (starting) to $9.00 per hour (maximum). The average wage was $7.55 per hour. In the 2002 legislative session, providers received a 3.0% inflationary rate increase for FY2003, of which 0.9% was designated specifically for wages of direct support professionals. The South Dakota Association of Community-Based Services reported that a July 2001 survey of member agencies found the following DSP wages (see Table 11):


Table 11: Community Residential Wages in South Dakota

Staff Position Average Starting Wage High Low Average Wage
Full-Time Residential Trainer $7.86 $9.14 $6.95 $8.57
Supported Living Staff $7.97 $10.15 $6.95 $8.92

Tennessee. The Tennessee Division of Mental Retardation Services provided a 2000 Aggregate Wage Report by Service and Region of average wages of DSPs in non-state community residential settings. The information from 35 agencies is averaged in Table 12 across the seven regions. The division reported that there has been no recent legislative or other state government actions to improve wages of direct support professionals in community residential settings. The Tennessee Network of Community Organizations reported that it is currently conducting a survey of wages of DSPs in community residential settings.


Table 12: Aggregate Wage Report from Tennessee

Service Average Starting Wage Average Wage Average Highest Wage
Residential Habilitation* $6.73 $7.71 $9.31
Supported Living** $6.81 $7.52 $8.85
* home owned/controlled by an agency ** residents own/rent site and may choose other residents and staff

Texas. The Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation reported that the current minimum average wage of DSPs in non-state community residential settings is $7.33 per hour for waiver settings and $7.70 per hour for ICF/MR facilities. The department reported that for DSPs serving persons in state community residential settings, the current beginning hourly wage is $7.63 and the maximum hourly wage is $9.93. The Texas legislature enacted SB 1839 in July 2001. Section 252.207 (c) orders the Health and Human Services Commission to ensure that the formula devised to increase the reimbursement rates paid to facilities and Home and Community-Based Services under the Medicaid program provides incentives to increase DSP wages and benefits.

Utah. The Utah Division of Services for People with Disabilities provided the results of the the Utah Association of Community Services’ 2001 Staff Vacancy Rate/Turnover Survey. The 41 respondent agencies reported a current average starting hourly wage of $7.40 per hour and an average hourly wage of $8.44 per hour for DSPs in non-state community residential settings. The division also reported that there have been no recent legislative or other state government actions to improve wages of DSPs in community residential settings.

Vermont. The Vermont Department of Developmental and Mental Health Services conducted a Community Service Provider and State Employee Wage and Benefit Study in FY1997, which used the concept of total compensation (i.e., total wages + total benefits/actual hours worked). Because other states do not use this concept in their computations of compensations, this report was not comparable to other state reports.

The department sent legislation to the Vermont legislature for the FY2001 appropriation of $3,958,178 to be used for wage and benefit increases for developmental service providers, with due regard for the lowest income employees. The FY2002 appropriation was $3,557,945, to be used for the same purpose.

The Vermont Council of Developmental and Mental Health Services, Inc., reported results of its survey on direct support professionals’ wages in non-state community residential settings in April 2002. Among ID/DD providers the wage range was $8.40 to $15.44 per hour, with an average of $9.98 per hour.

Virginia. The Virginia Office of Mental Retardation reported that it had not conducted any recent studies or reports on wages of DSPs in community residential settings. No specific legislation or other state government actions to improve wages of DSPs in community residential settings were identified.

The Virginia Association of Community Rehabilitation Programs sent the Rehabilitation Services Providers 2001 Salary Study Survey Results, reporting that the average wage of DSPs in non-state community residential settings was $11.44 per hour.

Washington. The Washington Division of Developmental Disabilities provided the results of the October 2001 DDD Residential Staffing Survey. It reported, for non-state settings, a starting wage for DSPs of $8.75 per hour and a mid-level wage of $9.76 per hour. For state settings, the starting wage for DSPs was $12.07 per hour and the mid-level wage was $13.25 per hour. On July 1, 2001, the “benchmark” rate for all residential program agencies was increased by $.55 per hour ($.50 for wages + $.05 for the associated payroll tax cost).

West Virginia. The West Virginia Division of Developmental Disabilities reported current beginning ($5.50) and high ($7.50) hourly wages of DSPs in community residential settings. It also reported that there have been no specific studies or reports about or recent legislative or other state government actions to improve the wages of DSPs in community residential settings.

Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services reported that there have been no recent studies or reports about or recent legislative or other state government actions to improve the wages of DSPs serving persons with ID/DD in community residential settings.

Wyoming. In December 2001, the Wyoming Developmental Disabilities Division submitted a study to the Department of Health Joint Appropriations Committee: Study of Nonprofessional Direct Care Staff Recruitment, Retention, and Wages. It reported the following average hourly wages for DSPs in non-state community residential settings: a) average starting wage, $6.79; b) average wage, $7.37; and c) average highest wage, $8.37. The study recommended a $10.23 per hour entry level wage, with parallel increases for more experienced DSPs.

The 2002 Wyoming legislature responded to this study with appropriations to increase wages of DSPs in community residential settings. In November 2002, the beginning average starting wage was reported to be $7.50 per hour and the average wage after 12 months experience was reported to be $10.32 per hour. A related substantial decrease in DSP turnover (from 52% to 37%) was observed in the three months subsequent to the wage increases.


This issue was supported, in part, by Grant #H133B980047 from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), U.S. Department of Education.

Managing Editors are Charlie Lakin and Vicki Gaylord. Issue Editor is Christen Opsal. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Center or its funding sources.

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Published on the Web site of the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota (http://ici.umn.edu)

Citation: Polister, B., Lakin, K.C., and Prouty, R. (2003) Wages of Direct Support Professionals Serving Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: A Survey of State Agencies and Private Residential Provider Trade Associations. Policy Research Brief (University of Minnesota: Minneapolis, Institute on Community Integration), 14(2).