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Perm J. 2012 Summer;16(3):37-41.

Sociodemographic characteristics of members of a large, integrated health care system: comparison with US Census Bureau data.

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Kaiser Permanente Research and Evaluation, Pasadena, CA,



Data from the memberships of large, integrated health care systems can be valuable for clinical, epidemiologic, and health services research, but a potential selection bias may threaten the inference to the population of interest.


We reviewed administrative records of members of Kaiser Permanente Southern California (KPSC) in 2000 and 2010, and we compared their sociodemographic characteristics with those of the underlying population in the coverage area on the basis of US Census Bureau data.


We identified 3,328,579 KPSC members in 2000 and 3,357,959 KPSC members in 2010, representing approximately 16% of the population in the coverage area. The distribution of sex and age of KPSC members appeared to be similar to the census reference population in 2000 and 2010 except with a slightly higher proportion of 40 to 64 year olds. The proportion of Hispanics/Latinos was comparable between KPSC and the census reference population (37.5% vs 38.2%, respectively, in 2000 and 45.2% vs 43.3% in 2010). However, KPSC members included more blacks (14.9% vs 7.0% in 2000 and 10.8% vs 6.5% in 2010). Neighborhood educational levels and neighborhood household incomes were generally similar between KPSC members and the census reference population, but with a marginal underrepresentation of individuals with extremely low income and high education.


The membership of KPSC reflects the socioeconomic diversity of the Southern California census population, suggesting that findings from this setting may provide valid inference for clinical, epidemiologic, and health services research.

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