Numerous studies have documented the presence of racial disparities among Americans in health outcomes with respect to cardiovascular disease, infant mortality, cancer, and kidney disease. With regard to kidney diseases, these disparities are more dramatic. African, Hispanic, and Native Americans have the highest risks of end-stage renal disease (ESRD). The incidence of ESRD is four times higher in African Americans than in whites. Diseases causing chronic kidney failure, such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, systemic lupus erythematosus, and human immunodeficiency virus-associated nephropathy, are particularly prevalent among African-American patients. In addition to the higher prevalence, the morbidity associated with kidney complications of these diseases appears worse in African-American patients. African Americans also have worse outcomes and a relatively reduced access to kidney transplantation--the best therapy for ESRD. It is highly likely that social and environmental factors play a very significant role in the persistence of these disparities. A detailed understanding of these socioeconomic and environmental factors will be critical in formulating rational public health strategies to redress these disparities. This paper reviews the social, economic and environmental factors that impact on the incidence of ESRD in minority groups.