We undertook this study to determine whether there is a significant difference in survival on treatment for end-stage renal disease between Mexican-Americans, non-Hispanic whites, and African-Americans. A database covering the years 1975 to 1986 was obtained from the Texas Kidney Health Program. Eight-eight percent to 90% of patients starting renal replacement therapy in Texas were included in this database. The patients were followed until death, for 3 years after successful transplantation, or until they were lost to follow-up. Life table analysis as well as age-adjusted analysis using the Cox proportional hazards model were performed comparing ethnic/racial groups, disease etiology, and treatment type. In life-table analyses, African-Americans and Mexican-Americans had a survival advantage in most age, disease, and treatment groups. With age adjustment, this survival advantage remained for all etiologies combined, for diabetes and hypertension cases, and for patients receiving hemodialysis in a center. Multivariate analysis revealed a persistent survival advantage for Mexican-Americans independent of traditional predictor variables, such as age, disease etiology, treatment type, or size of the center in which they received treatment. In this same analysis, African-Americans showed an advantage in the older age groups. Both African-Americans and Mexican-Americans on renal replacement therapy have an increased survival advantage compared with non-Hispanic whites. Given the additional burden of increased incidence of end-stage renal disease in these groups, the cost of renal replacement therapy for these minorities is disproportionately high. Further study should be aimed at elucidation of the mechanisms by which minorities achieve their survival advantage.