Elective knee and hip joint replacements are cost-effective treatment options in the management of end-stage knee and hip osteoarthritis. Yet there are marked racial disparities in the utilization of this treatment even though the prevalence of knee and hip osteoarthritis does not vary greatly by race or ethnicity. This article briefly reviews the rationale for understanding this disparity, the evidence-base that supports the existence of racial or ethnic disparity as well as some known potential explanations. Also, briefly summarized here are the most recent original research articles that focus on race and ethnicity and total joint replacement in the management of chronic knee or hip pain and osteoarthritis. The article concludes with a call for more research, examining patient, provider and system-level factors that underlie this disparity and the design of evidence-based, targeted interventions to eliminate or reduce any inequities.