UNINSURED: Characteristics of California’s Hispanic Population Help Explain Uninsured Rate
Comparing demographic and economic factors, including noncitizenship, education and job characteristics, of California Hispanics to other Hispanics in the United States can help explain why California has a "substantially higher" uninsured rate than the rest of the country, according to a new report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute. More than 24% of California's nonelderly population was uninsured in 1998, compared with 18.4% nationwide, giving California the third-highest uninsured rate in the United States. California's Hispanic population "has a major impact on the state's uninsured rate," the report notes, as Hispanics, in general, are more likely than other races to be uninsured, and California has a larger percentage of Hispanics than the rest of the country. But, controlling for race, the report shows that the "underlying differences" in states' uninsured rates are "mainly" because of differences in education, wages, job characteristics and citizenship status, all of which "may reflect cultural differences." Those demographic factors tend to have interrelated effects; lack of citizenship, for example, is "strongly associated" with lower educational and wage levels. But EBRI President and CEO Dallas Salisbury cautioned, "It is important to note that Hispanics are not necessarily less likely than other ethnic groups to be insured simply because they are Hispanic. What our research points to is how other aspects of the work force, which may be correlated with ethnicity, are different in California from the rest of the country." The report also notes other factors in California's uninsured rate, such as a decline in employer-based health coverage and the fact that California workers are twice as likely as other workers to be employed in the agricultural sector, which tends to be less likely to offer health coverage (EBRI release, 9/13). The report, "Health Insurance Coverage and the Job Market in California," is available at http://www.ebri.org/sr36.pdf.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.