Survey Identifies Health Care Use and Needs of Undocumented Hispanic Immigrants

Survey on undocumented Hispanic immigrants' access to health care services

From 1996 to 1999, researchers from the People-To-People Health Foundation (commonly known as the Project HOPE Center for Health Affairs) conducted a survey on:

  • The level of health care services currently being used by undocumented Latino immigrants in El Paso and Houston, Texas.
  • The barriers to care they face.
  • The likely effects of denying services to this population.

The study consisted of in-depth interviews of households having undocumented immigrants.

Key Findings

  • The population of undocumented Latino immigrants was relatively young — in Houston, 59 percent were between the ages of 18 and 34 and in El Paso 39 percent were in this age group.
  • Ninety-nine percent of the undocumented Latinos in El Paso, and 86 percent of those in Houston, emigrated from Mexico.
  • No respondent at either site reported coming to the United States for health or social services.
  • Family incomes of undocumented Latinos in both cities were quite low, with almost half reporting annual family incomes of $5,000 or less, and more than 90 percent reporting incomes under $20,000.
  • Use of ambulatory care services was very low compared to that of the overall US population.
  • The rates of hospitalization of undocumented Latinos were similar to overall Latino and US populations; hospitalizations for childbirth, however, were higher among undocumented Latinos.
  • Excluding the undocumented Latinos from receiving government-funded health care services is unlikely to reduce the level of immigration and may affect the well-being of citizen children living in immigrant households.


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported this project through a grant of $451,207.