Survey Identifies Health Care Use and Needs of Undocumented Hispanic Immigrants

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.