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J Gen Intern Med. 2009 Nov;24 Suppl 3:561-6. doi: 10.1007/s11606-009-1069-7.

Heterogeneity in health insurance coverage among US Latino adults.

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UCLA School of Public Health, 650 Charles E. Young Drive South Room 31-299C, Box 951772, Los Angeles, CA, 90095, USA.



We sought to determine the differences in observed and unobserved factors affecting rates of health insurance coverage between US Latino adults and US Latino adults of Mexican ancestry. Our hypothesis was that Latinos of Mexican ancestry have worse health insurance coverage than their non-Mexican Latino counterparts.


The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) database from 1999-2007 consists of 33,847 Latinos. We compared Latinos of Mexican ancestry to non-Mexican Latinos in the initial descriptive analysis of health insurance coverage. Disparities in health insurance coverage across Latino categories were later analyzed in a multivariable logistic regression framework, which adjusts for confounding variables. The Blinder-Oaxaca technique was applied to parse out differences in health insurance coverage into observed and unobserved components.


US Latinos of Mexican ancestry consistently had lower rates of health insurance coverage than did US non-Mexican Latinos. Approximately 65% of these disparities can be attributed to differences in observed characteristics of the Mexican ancestry population in the US (e.g., age, sex, income, employment status, education, citizenship, language and health condition). The remaining disparities may be attributed to unobserved heterogeneity that may include unobserved employment-related information (e.g., type of employment and firm size) and behavioral and idiosyncratic factors (e.g., risk aversion and cultural differences).


This study confirmed that Latinos of Mexican ancestry were less likely to have health insurance than were non-Mexican Latinos. Moreover, while differences in observed socioeconomic and demographic factors accounted for most of these disparities, the share of unobserved heterogeneity accounted for 35% of these differences.

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