Hispanic healthcare disparities: challenging the myth of a monolithic Hispanic population

Med Care. 2004 Apr;42(4):313-20. doi: 10.1097/01.mlr.0000118705.27241.7c.


Background: Hispanic Americans are often treated as a monolithic ethnic group with a single pattern of healthcare utilization. However, there could be considerable differences within this population. We examine the association between use of healthcare services and Hispanic Americans'country of ancestry or origin, language of interview, and length of time lived in the United States.

Methods: Our data come from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a nationally representative survey of healthcare use and expenditures. Descriptive statistics and logistic regression results are presented.

Results: Multivariate models show that Mexicans and Cubans are less likely, and Puerto Ricans more likely, to have any emergency department visits than non-Hispanic whites. Mexicans, Central American/Caribbeans, and South Americans are less likely to have any prescription medications. All Hispanics are less likely to have any ambulatory visits and prescription medications, whereas only those with a Spanish-language interview are less likely to have emergency department visits and inpatient admissions. More recent immigrants are less likely to have any ambulatory care or emergency department visits, whereas all Hispanics born outside the United States are less likely to have any prescription medications.

Conclusions: The Hispanic population is composed of many different groups with diverse health needs and different barriers to accessing care. Misconceptions of Hispanics as a monolithic population lacking within-group diversity could function as a barrier to efforts aimed at providing appropriate care to Hispanic persons and could be 1 factor contributing to inequalities in the availability, use, and quality of healthcare services in this population.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Communication Barriers
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data
  • Educational Status
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services / economics
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services Accessibility / standards
  • Health Status
  • Hispanic or Latino* / education
  • Hispanic or Latino* / psychology
  • Hispanic or Latino* / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Needs Assessment / organization & administration
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • United States