A Living Wage for Research Subjects



Offering cash payments to research subjects is a common recruiting method, but this practice continues to be controversial because of its potential to compromise the protection of human subjects. Federal regulations and guidelines currently allow researchers to pay subjects for participation, but they say very little about how much researchers can pay their subjects. This paper argues that the federal regulations and guidelines should implement a standard payment formula. It argues for a wage payment model, and critically examines three candidates for a base wage: the nonfarm production wage, the FLSA minimum wage, and a living wage. After showing that the nonfarm production wage is too high to satisfy ethical criteria, and the minimum wage is too low, this paper concludes that the wage payment model with a base wage equivalent to a living wage is the best candidate for a standard payment formula in human subjects research.