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Key Facts on Health and Health Care by Race and Ethnicity

55% of 32.3 million nonelderly uninsured are people of colorDisparities in health and health care remain a persistent challenge in the United States. Disparities not only result in inequities but also limit continued improvement in quality of care and population health and result in unnecessary health care costs. Many initiatives are underway to address disparities and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) included provisions that advance efforts to reduce disparities. One key step to addressing disparities is identifying and documenting them. This information is necessary to develop and target interventions and to track progress over time. Data available to measure disparities is improving. Notably, the ACA requires all federal data collection efforts to obtain information on race, ethnicity, sex, primary language, and disability status. However, there remain gaps in data, particularly for some racial and ethnic subgroups.

This chartpack provides data on demographics, health access and utilization, health status and outcomes, and health coverage by race and ethnicity to provide greater insight into the current status of disparities. Where data are available, it examines measures by six groups: White, Asian, Hispanic, Black, American Indian and Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander. The majority of measures are for the nonelderly population. (A separate chartpack provides data for elderly individuals.) The analysis is based on the most recent year of data available from different national data sets (see Methods). It shows:

Main Takeaways

  • More than four in ten (41%) nonelderly individuals living in the United States are people of color. Some areas of the country, particularly the South, are more diverse than others. Overall, people of color generally are younger compared to Whites and include higher shares of immigrants. While most live in a family with a full-time worker, they generally are more likely to have income below poverty compared to Whites.
  • People of color face significant disparities in access to and utilization of care. Nonelderly Asians, Hispanics, Blacks, and American Indians and Alaska Natives face increased barriers to accessing care compared to Whites and have lower utilization of care. There remain large gaps in data for understanding access and utilization of care for Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders.
  • Blacks and American Indians and Alaska Natives fare worse than Whites on the majority of examined measures of health status and outcomes. Findings for Hispanics are mixed with them faring better than Whites on some measures and worse on others. Asians fare better than Whites across most examined measures, but this finding masks underlying differences between subgroups of Asians. Data gaps limit the assessment of health status and outcomes for Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders.
  • Despite coverage gains under the ACA, nonelderly Hispanics, Blacks, and American Indians and Alaska Natives remain significantly more likely than Whites to be uninsured. Overall, people of color account for more than half (55%) of the total 32.3 million nonelderly uninsured. There are a number of differences in the characteristics of the nonelderly uninsured by race and ethnicity that affect their eligibility for coverage and that may help inform outreach and enrollment efforts.

Together these data show that people of color continue to face significant disparities in access to and utilization of care, health status and health outcomes, and health coverage. However, the scope and types of disparities vary across racial and ethnic groups. Moreover, although the ACA included provisions to increase data availability, there remain key gaps in data, particularly for some racial and ethnic subgroups. Looking ahead, focused efforts to increase the data available to examine disparities will be important.

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Methods

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.