Race, Ethnicity and the Dynamics of Health Insurance Coverage
Robert W. Fairlie
University of California; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); RAND Corporation
Rebecca A. London
IZA Discussion Paper No. 3708
Using matched data from the 1996 to 2004 Current Population Survey (CPS), we examine racial patterns in annual transitions into and out of health insurance coverage. We first decompose racial differences in static health insurance coverage rates into group differences in transition rates into and out of health insurance coverage. The low rate of health insurance coverage among African-Americans is due almost entirely to higher annual rates of losing health insurance than whites. Among the uninsured, African-Americans have similar rates of gaining health insurance in the following year as whites. Estimates from the matched CPS also indicate that the lower rate of health insurance coverage among Asians is almost entirely accounted for by a relatively high rate of losing health insurance. In contrast to these findings, differences in health insurance coverage between Latinos and whites are due to group differences in both the rate of health insurance loss and gain. Using logit regression estimates, we also calculate non-linear decompositions for the racial gaps in health insurance loss and gain. We find that two main factors are responsible for differences in health insurance loss between working-age whites and minorities: job loss and education level. Higher rates of job loss account for 30 percent of the health insurance gap for African-Americans and Asians, and 16 percent of the health insurance gap for Latinos. Lower levels of education explain roughly 15 percent of the gap for African-Americans and Latinos (Asians’ higher levels of education serve to close the gap). Higher rates of welfare and SSI participation among African-Americans also serve to widen the gap in health insurance loss by 8 percent.