Policy Research Brief: How Much Do Direct Support Professionals Make? Putting Wages In Context


This brief uses publicly available data from the National Core Indicators® (NCI)-IDD Staff Stability Survey to compare wages of direct support professionals (DSPs) to what people earn in other similar professions. It also puts them in context by comparing DSP wages to living wages—the cost of living based on typical expenses that meet minimum standards of living.

Low wages are a major factor contributing to the DSP workforce crisis. This Brief shows that DSP wages have been consistently below wages of other comparable professions.  It also shows that not only has the gap between living wages and DSP wages not gotten smaller in recent years, with the onset of the pandemic, it saw a jump. For a family with one working adult and one child (which makes up a large proportion of DSPs), the median gap went from being $13.00 per hour below living wage in 2019 to $17.64 per hour below living wage in 2020. Such gaps between what people need to earn to live and what they actually earn are not sustainable.

Suggested Citation

Bershadsky, J. (Ed.). (2022). How much do direct support professionals make? Putting wages in context. 28(6).


March 2022 
Volume 29, Number 1
Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota


  • Direct support workforce
    • Retention and recruitment