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Health Serv Res. 2012 Dec;47(6):2353-76. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6773.2012.01417.x. Epub 2012 Apr 23.

Residential segregation and the availability of primary care physicians.

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  • 1Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 624 N. Broadway, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.



To examine the association between residential segregation and geographic access to primary care physicians (PCPs) in metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs).


We combined zip code level data on primary care physicians from the 2006 American Medical Association master file with demographic, socioeconomic, and segregation measures from the 2000 U.S. Census. Our sample consisted of 15,465 zip codes located completely or partially in an MSA.


We defined PCP shortage areas as those zip codes with no PCP or a population to PCP ratio of >3,500. Using logistic regressions, we estimated the association between a zip code's odds of being a PCP shortage area and its minority composition and degree of segregation in its MSA.


We found that odds of being a PCP shortage area were 67 percent higher for majority African American zip codes but 27 percent lower for majority Hispanic zip codes. The association varied with the degree of segregation. As the degree of segregation increased, the odds of being a PCP shortage area increased for majority African American zip codes; however, the converse was true for majority Hispanic and Asian zip codes.


Efforts to address PCP shortages should target African American communities especially in segregated MSAs.

© Health Research and Educational Trust.

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