Hispanics and Health Insurance Coverage

The Rising Disparity

An examination of two decades of data reveals that health insurance rates for Hispanics have decreased over the past 20 years while rates for non-Hispanics have held roughly steady. Economic conditions and policies that maintained or improved health insurance rates for non-Hispanic adults have not helped Hispanic adults.

The authors used data collected from 1983–2003 in the Survey of Income and Program Participation, which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. They stacked panels from the survey to create a 20-year cross section of nonelderly adults to calculate actual trends in health insurance. They also calculated hypothetical time series to disentangle the effect of decreasing coverage rates from the growth of the Hispanic adult population.

Key Findings:

  • The largest increase of uninsured people was found among Hispanic noncitizens, but U.S.-born Hispanics also had significant increases in rates of uninsurance. This change was driven largely by changes in private insurance. Public insurance rates did not change significantly.
  • The widening disparity in health insurance rates between non-Hispanics and Hispanics was a more important contributor to the increasing rates of uninsurance among Hispanics than the increase in the Hispanic adult population.

While the percentage of Americans without health insurance has increased in the past two decades, the percentage of uninsured non-Hispanic adults has held relatively steady since 1983, while the percentage of uninsured Hispanic adults has increased. Changes that improved or maintained insurance rates among non-Hispanics did not have the same effect on Hispanics.