Income, race, and surgery in Maryland

Am J Public Health. 1991 Nov;81(11):1435-41. doi: 10.2105/ajph.81.11.1435.


Background: We describe common surgical and medical hospital admission rates for Maryland residents, exploring systematic effects of race and income.

Methods: The data comprise Maryland hospital discharges and population estimates for 1985 to 1987. Patient income is the race-specific median family income of residence zip code. Logistic regression is used to measure incidence by race, income, and residence for surgical and medical reasons for admission.

Results: Population rates for discretionary orthopedic, vascular, and laryngologic surgery tend to increase with community income levels. Coronary and carotid artery surgery rates are two to three times higher among Whites. The more discretionary the procedure, the lower is the relative incidence among Blacks. By contrast, admission rates for most medical reasons decline with increasing income levels and are elevated among Blacks. The affluent receive coronary artery procedures whereas the poor are hospitalized for coronary artery disease.

Conclusions: Blacks and the poor appear to have higher illness burdens requiring hospital care. Discretionary surgeries have a White predominance and increase with income; medical admissions have a Black predominance and decline with income. Race and community income level are important factors in differential hospital utilization rates.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diagnosis-Related Groups
  • Female
  • Hospitals / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Maryland
  • Odds Ratio
  • Patient Admission / statistics & numerical data*
  • Small-Area Analysis
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / statistics & numerical data*
  • White People / statistics & numerical data*