The impact of ethnicity, family income, and parental education on children's health and use of health services

Am J Public Health. 1999 Jul;89(7):1066-71. doi: 10.2105/ajph.89.7.1066.


Objectives: This study characterized ethnic disparities for children in demographics, health status, and use of services; explored whether ethnic subgroups (Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Mexican) have additional distinctive differences; and determined whether disparities are explained by differences in family income and parental education.

Methods: Bivariate and multivariate analyses of data on 99,268 children from the 1989-91 National Health Interview Surveys were conducted.

Results: Native American, Black, and Hispanic children are poorest (35%, 41% below poverty level vs 10% of Whites), least healthy (66%-74% in excellent or very good health vs 85% of Whites), and have the least well educated parents. Compared with Whites, non-White children average fewer doctor visits and are more likely to have excessive intervals between visits. Hispanic subgroup differences in demographics, health, and use of services equal or surpass differences among major ethnic groups. In multivariate analyses, almost all ethnic group disparities persisted after adjustment for family income, parental education, and other relevant covariates.

Conclusions: Major ethnic groups and subgroups of children differ strikingly in demographics, health, and use of services; subgroup differences are easily overlooked; and most disparities persist even after adjustment for family income and parental education.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Educational Status*
  • Ethnicity*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Income*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Logistic Models
  • Parents
  • Poverty
  • United States