Pediatric Pulmonologists' Perceptions of Family Socioeconomic Status in Asthma Care

Pediatr Allergy Immunol Pulmonol. 2014 Sep 1;27(3):120-125. doi: 10.1089/ped.2014.0357.


Background: Physicians' assumptions about patients' socioeconomic status (SES) have been shown to influence clinical decision making in adult patients. The goal of this study is to assess the factors associated with pediatric pulmonologists' (PPs') subjective ratings of their patients' SES, and whether these factors differ by patient race/ethnicity. Methods: Parents of children with asthma (n=171) presenting for pulmonary care reported their SES using the MacArthur Subjective SES 10-rung ladder. The PPs (n=7) also estimated each family's SES. Two-level linear regression models with random intercepts (level 1: PP's SES ratings; level 2: PPs) were used to assess the predictors of PP-estimated family SES. The analyses were then stratified by race/ethnicity. Results: Parental educational, insurance type, age, and race/ethnic background were associated with PPs' SES ratings. Black/African American families were rated lower than white families, accounting for other demographic factors (b=-0.60, p<0.01), but families of other races/ethnicities were not (b=-0.10, p=0.29). Even when comparing families with the same level of parental education, black/African American families, but not families of other backgrounds, were judged to have lower SES than white families (from 0.77 rungs lower among parents with some college, to 1.2 rungs lower among parents with high school or less; both p<0.05). Conclusions: Racial differences in PPs' ability to estimate families' subjective SES in asthma care may be a function of unconscious societal biases about race and class. Collecting subjective SES from families and PPs during the office visit could facilitate discussions about material and psychosocial needs and resources that influence treatment effectiveness.