Although it has been established that minority physicians tend to see more minority and more poor or uninsured patients, pediatrics as a specialty has not been studied in this regard.
To determine if minority pediatricians disproportionately provide care to minority children and to poor and uninsured children, relative to nonminority pediatricians, while controlling for possible confounding variables (socioeconomic background, sex, use of non-English languages in practice, and subspecialty training).
In 1996, a stratified random sample of 1044 pediatricians, half of whom were underrepresented minorities (URMs) (African, Native, and Mexican Americans, mainland Puerto Ricans, and other Hispanics) and half of whom were Asian or Pacific Islanders, commonwealth Puerto Ricans, and whites (non-URMs), were surveyed about personal, practice, and patient characteristics.
Multivariate analyses reveal that, independent of other variables, being a URM pediatrician is significantly (P = .001) and positively associated with caring for a greater proportion of minority and Medicaid-insured or uninsured patients. Underrepresented minority pediatricians saw 24 percentage points more minority patients and 13 percentage points more Medicaid-insured or uninsured patients than did non-URM pediatricians.
Compared with what non-URM pediatricians report, URM pediatricians report caring for significantly (P = .001) more minority and poor and uninsured patients. Given the few pediatricians who are URM, non-URM pediatricians should be adequately prepared to provide care for minority patients, as the proportion of minority children is high and will be increasing significantly in the next several years. Most important, efforts to ensure a racially and ethnically diverse health care workforce should be greatly enhanced, as its diversity, and hence representativeness, will improve the health care system for all Americans.