In response to the introduction of ethnic monitoring within the U.K. hospital inpatient data set, this study investigates the variations in secondary healthcare utilization by Black and minority ethnic communities whose cause of admission is related to asthma. The study examines all residents of the West Midlands: over 5 million people, of whom 8.5% are from Black and minority ethnic groups. A retrospective study of 15,921 asthma-related hospital admissions, from 1 April 1995 to 31 March 1996, was carried out. Age-standardized admission rates were higher in all Black and minority ethnic groups studied than in the White group. There were elevated rates in Black children aged 5-14 years, and particular differences were observed for Indian and Bangladeshi men and women aged 65 years or over. Emergency admissions to hospital for asthma were strongly associated with patients' socioeconomic background but this was largely observed for Black and minority ethnic groups that also generally experience high levels of deprivation. The findings support previous studies which suggest that hospital utilization rates for asthma among people from Black and minority ethnic groups are high compared with the White group, despite little evidence in measured prevalence. This study suggests that ethnic background is more important in asthma admissions than deprivation, which raises serious concerns on the appropriateness and quality of asthma care for these patient groups within our society. Future studies need to examine pathways to care, that is the health-seeking behaviour of Black and minority ethnic groups, the type of treatment received at the primary care level and referral patterns to secondary care.