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Data Availability for Race, Ethnicity,

and Immigrant Groups in Federal Surveys


July 2009

Introduction
Publicly available data for populations defined by race,

Exhibit 1: Federal Surveys Examined in This Issue Brief

ethnicity, or immigrant group (REI) are necessary

Census Bureau
CPS: Current Population Survey, 2007
SIPP: Survey of Income and Program Participation, 2004

for monitoring disparities in healthcare coverage


and access. In SHADACs companion issue brief,
Measurement of Race, Ethnicity, and Immigrant
Groups in Federal Surveys,1 we reviewed the way that
selected federal surveys collect information on race,
ethnicity, and immigrant groups and found a relatively
comprehensive collection of measures. Although
detailed information on race and ethnicity are collected

National Center for Health Statistics


NHIS: National Health Interview Survey, 2007
NHANES: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005-2006
NSCH: National Survey of Childrens Health, 2003-2004
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
BRFSS: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2007
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
MEPS: Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Household Component, 2006

in most surveys, the data available in public-use files


are much more restricted. This brief focuses on the
availability of public use data for race, ethnicity and

Background

immigrant group identifiers.

As discussed in the companion to this issue brief1, each

Policy decisions, funding decisions, and programs to


address disparities typically occur at state and local
levels, but availability of data to inform these initiatives
is problematic at these geographic levels. This brief
provides a review of public use data from selected
federal surveys that collect information on health
insurance coverage and access to care, with attention to
the feasibility of state or local level disparities research.

of the federal surveys measures race and ethnicity in a


different way, albeit following certain minimum standards
established by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
The surveys also differ on study design aspects such as
target population, sample design, year and frequency of data
collection, and sample size. Exhibit 2 provides an overview of
each survey with respect to frequency of data collection, target
population, the most recent public use data available, and
overall sample size.

The general population surveys included in this


assessment are the same surveys assessed in the
companion brief mentioned above.1 These surveys all
measure health insurance coverage and access to care
on an annual or periodic basis. These surveys and their
associated agencies are listed in Exhibit 1.

Race Data Availability


While race and ethnicity may be measured at a high level
of detail, this level of detail may not always be available for
data analysis. Race data available in public-use files are often
restricted for confidentiality reasons. As described in our

Exhibit 2: Public Use Data Files Examined in This Issue Brief


Survey

Periodicity

Target Population

Most Recent Year of Data

Total Observations

CPS

Annual

Civilian, non-institutionalized U.S. population

2007

206,639

SIPP

Panel

Civilian, non-institutionalized U.S. population

2004 (wave 1)

441,849

NHIS

Annual

Civilian, non-institutionalized U.S. population

2007

NHANES

Periodic

Civilian, non-institutionalized U.S. population

2005-06

10,348

NSCH

Periodic

U.S. children < 18 years

2003-04

102,353

BRFSS

Annual

U.S. adults > 18 years

2007

430,912

MEPS

Panel

Civilian, non-institutionalized U.S. population

2006

33,961

75,764

Data Availability for Race, Ethnicity, and Immigrant Groups in Federal Surveys

NSCH identifies two single race categories (White and

companion brief, the minimum OMB standard for measuring


race is to include: White, American Indian or Alaska Native

Black) with a residual other for all states. However, AIAN,

(AIAN), Asian, Black or African American, and Native Hawaiian

Asian, and NHOPI can be identified for selected states.

or other Pacific Islander (NHOPI). Furthermore, respondents

MEPS identifies all five OMB categories for single race

are allowed to select one or more race.

individuals and a residual multiple race category for those


who identified more than one race.

Most of the surveys reviewed in the brief have collected


more detailed information than the OMB minimum standard,

CPS identifies all five single race categories but also

although this level of detail is not necessarily available for

provides detailed identifiers for many multiple race

public use. All eight surveys allowed respondents to select

combinations.

one or more races. For those who select more than one

BRFSS and NHIS each provide several race variables,

race, three surveys (NHANES, NHIS, BRFSS) ask a follow-

allowing researchers to choose single race categories with

up question regarding which of the multiple races best

a residual multiple race category or a recode that allocates

identifies the respondent. Exhibit 3 shows race groups

multiple race individuals to a race category based on self-

identified in the public use data with unweighted sample

identified preferred race. The NHIS is the only public use

sizes for each group by survey.

data file with an expanded race variable distinguishing


some Asian subgroups.

In summary:
NHANES provides a single variable combining responses
to the ethnicity and race questions. It is therefore only

Ethnicity Data Availability

possible to distinguish non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic

In federal surveys, ethnicity refers to Hispanic ethnicity.

Black, and non-Hispanic Other from all Hispanics.

The minimum OMB standard for collecting data on ethnicity

SIPP identifies three single race categories (White, Black,


Asian) and a residual other category that includes AIAN,
NHOPI, and multiple race individuals.

includes the following response options: 1) Hispanic/Latino


or 2) Not Hispanic/Latino. Some of the federal surveys we
reviewed collected more information allowing respondents
to specify detailed categories of Hispanic origin (e.g.,

Exhibit 3: Unweighted Sample Size for Race Groups in Public Use Data for Selected Federal Surveys
CPS

SIPP

NHANES

NHIS

NSCH

BRFSS

2007

2004

2005/06

2007

2003/04

2007

2006

White

164,839

350,093

3,928

56,827

76,403

354,481

25,625

Black

23,532

57,292

2,710

11,813

10,134

34,644

6,097

AIAN

2,793

893

1,017*

6,953

300

Asian

9,208

4,730

798*

6,657

1,298

126

15,400

Asian Indian

813*

Chinese

1,013*

Filipino

1,180*

Other Asian
NHOPI

1,784*
908

Other
Multiple

MEPS

19,064

514

5,359~

Unknown

3,196

397*

1,170

124

4,499

14,743

1,377

4,407

8,074

6,910

4,190

699

* Some groups are double-counted in this table. Asian subgroups in NHIS are included in the "Asian" category for NHIS. Asian, AIAN, NHOPI
groups in NSCH are included in the "other" category for NSCH.
~ CPS has detailed identifiers for many multiple race combinations.

Data Availability for Race, Ethnicity, and Immigrant Groups in Federal Surveys

Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, etc.). Exhibit 4 shows ethnicity

corresponding unweighted sample sizes for each group

group identifiers in the public use data and corresponding

within surveys.

unweighted sample sizes for each survey.

Unlike data on race and ethnicity, immigrant group data

Similar to race data, the level of detail for Hispanic ethnicity

are limited across the surveys. Two surveys, BRFSS and

available in the public use files varied across surveys. Three

the MEPS, do not identify respondents place of birth and

surveys (SIPP, NSCH, BRFSS) only distinguish Hispanic from

consequently provide no data on immigrant group. Two

non-Hispanic, while the NHANES additionally distinguishes

surveys (SIPP, NSCH) identify whether the respondent was

Mexican from other Hispanic and non-Hispanic. The CPS,

born in the U.S. or not, while the NHANES distinguishes

NHIS, and MEPS provide additional detail on Hispanic origin

those born in the U.S., Mexico, or elsewhere. The NHIS

so Hispanic subgroups can be disaggregated.

distinguishes those who are U.S. born from those born in 10


broad global regions including a residual foreign-born category.
Regions identified in the NHIS public use files are based on

Immigrant Group Data Availability


The term immigrant is used here to broadly represent
the distinction between U.S. born and foreign born, and
more specifically to identify foreign-born groups by country
of origin. There are no OMB standards for the collection of
data on immigrant groups. We reviewed data files for each

countries geographic proximity to one another. The CPS


provides the most detailed information for immigrant groups.
In the 2007 CPS data, 149 countries of origin are identified for
respondents. Moreover, detailed country of origin is identified
for mothers and fathers of each respondent in the CPS.

survey to determine whether respondents could be grouped


as U.S. or foreign born, as well as the availability of detailed

State and Local Level Data

information on country of origin for those identified as foreign

Sample sizes for race, ethnic or immigrant groups also vary

born. Exhibit 5 shows the immigrant group data availability and

depending on the state or the REI group of interest. Even

Exhibit 4: Unweighted Sample Size for Ethnicity Groups in Public Use Data for Selected Federal Surveys

Not Hispanic or Latino

CPS

SIPP

NHANES

NHIS

NSCH

BRFSS

MEPS

2007

2004

2005/06

2007

2003/04

2007

2006

172,456

392,472

Hispanic or Latino
Mexican/Mexican-American

7,152

56,976

49,377
21,648

88,996

397,547

13,357

31,310

2,847

Mexican

24,745
7,053

6,596

Mexican-American

5,843

Puerto Rican

3,115

1,644

634

Cuban/Cuban-American

1,131

655

254

500

225

2,762

902

39

133

342

199

Dominican (Republic)
Central or South American

6,196

Other Latin American


Other Hispanic/Latino/Spanish
Multiple Hispanic
Unknown

2,093

349

407
2055

Note: Some ethnic categories on this table do not correspond exactly with the categories in Exhibit 3 in our companion issue brief. This is likely due to editing of other responses, but specific information has not been provided in the survey documentation.

Data Availability for Race, Ethnicity, and Immigrant Groups in Federal Surveys

Exhibit 5: Unweighted Sample Size for Immigrant Groups in Public Use Data for Selected Federal Surveys

U.S. Born

CPS

SIPP

NHANES

NHIS

NSCH

BRFSS

MEPS

2007

2004

2005/06

2007

2003/04

2007

2006

8,799

61,425

97,666

N/A

N/A

178,745

Foreign Born
Mexico, C. America, Caribbean

394,835
47,014

3,738

13,839

Mexico

8,008
961

South America

1,880

877

Europe

2,666

968

Russia

532

198

Africa

834

390

Middle East

519

191

India

1,250

640

Asia

2,116

863

SE Asia

2,859

Elsewhere

1,399

1,446
588

Unknown

302
456

949

NOTE: CPS has 149 countries identified. These were recoded for this table following NHIS categories.

with publicly available geographic identifiers, the sample sizes

Given that many decisions regarding coverage and access to

for specific REI groups at lower levels of geography may be

care are made at the state and local levels, having good data

compromised. For example, BRFSS has relatively large samples

to inform practice and policy recommendations and to evaluate

of AIAN (n=6,953) and Asian (n=6,657) subpopulations.

the impact for local REI populations is critical. This paucity of

However, in Minnesota there are only 27 AIAN and 54 Asian

state and local data for REI groups from the federal surveys

respondents in the 2007 sample, precluding comprehensive

underscores the need for renewed initiatives to improve data

disparities research for this state that has a large Asian

collection and data availability to support state and local level

immigrant population and one of the larger American Indian

activities to eliminate health disparities.

populations. Appendix A to this brief shows unweighted sample


sizes for selected REI groups by state for the four surveys that
contain state identifiers in the public use files.

Suggested Citation
State Health Access Data Assistance Center. 2009. REI: Data
availability for Race, Ethnicity, and Immigrant Groups in Federal
Surveys. Issue Brief #17. Minneapolis, MN: University

Conclusions

of Minnesota.

The U.S. has rich and varied data resources to study health,
healthcare access and health disparities. Yet, there is no
ideal federal survey that will allow for state-level analysis of

References

disparities in health insurance coverage and access to care

measures for a comprehensive group of disparities populations

Measurement of Race, Ethnicity, and Immigrant Groups

defined by race, ethnicity or immigrant group. We believe more

in Federal Surveys. Issue Brief #16. Minneapolis, MN:

effort must be made to collect and release data that allow for

University of Minnesota.

State Health Access Data Assistance Center. 2009. REI:

state-level disparities analysis.

Data Availability for Race, Ethnicity, and Immigrant Groups in Federal Surveys

Appendix A: Unweighted Sample Size for Selected REI Groups by Survey and State
CPS
2007

African American/Black alone


SIPP
NSCH
2004
2003

BRFSS
2007

CPS
2007

SIPP
2004

AIAN alone
NSCH
2003

BRFSS
2007

Alabama

691

2,948

474

2,018

Alaska

106

44

56

30

309

270

496

70

Arizona

101

404

41

83

145

82

166

Arkansas

404

496

243

472

51

79

California

1,178

2,533

142

246

189

100

Colorado

199

329

56

259

47

187

Connecticut

399

938

149

456

10

44

Delaware

630

220

406

461

12

26

Dist. Columbia

1,443

424

1,137

1,654

15

25

Florida

1,324

3,307

289

3,428

26

483

Georgia

62

1,501

2,947

474

1,438

Hawaii

22

48

63

31

16

Idaho

24

12

16

29

69

Illinois

932

2,060

271

509

13

26

Indiana

331

1,232

133

706

12

43

Iowa

123

180

46

82

23

21

Kansas

217

300

67

269

23

80

Kentucky

223

944

119

231

38

Louisiana

653

2,550

616

1,338

67

37

27

28

18

66

1,374

3,497

540

1,331

68

Massachusetts

211

732

107

1,074

11

162

Michigan

728

2,119

305

1,242

16

56

Minnesota

243

562

51

120

43

27

Mississippi

826

2,423

655

2,526

28

38

Missouri

429

1,349

199

432

11

Montana

10

51

18

145

Nebraska

113

76

44

81

35

88

Nevada

284

96

125

115

44

63

36

30

13

52

New Jersey

565

2,264

249

700

18

New Mexico

80

60

43

68

297

1,562

3,210

297

556

24

53

888

1,888

371

2,151

105

259

Maine
Maryland

New Hampshire

New York
North Carolina
North Dakota

20

34

11

10

251

Ohio

752

1,783

232

821

Oklahoma

264

564

116

442

240

Oregon

57
120

404

43
132

570

92

360

190

487

68

52

308

27

28

81

58

Pennsylvania

623

1,321

200

1,351

85

Rhode Island

174

28

110

140

22

46

South Carolina

839

2,841

564

2,143

South Dakota

41

16

143

379

1,476

241

563

24

22

1,151

2,946

216

1,142

94

222

Tennessee
Texas

77
131

606

Utah

11

10

21

20

56

Vermont

16

33

12

19

54

Virginia

870

4,480

348

755

12

57

Washington

107

356

60

326

41

363

West Virginia

127

64

48

79

23

Wisconsin

211

744

113

596

61

119

Wyoming

27

24

18

27

21

101

U.S. territories
TOTAL

1,966
23,532

57,292

10,134

34,644

55
2,793

N/A

1,017

6,953

Data Availability for Race, Ethnicity, and Immigrant Groups in Federal Surveys

Appendix A (continued)
CPS
2007
Alabama

Asian alone
SIPP
NSCH
2004
2003

BRFSS
2007

CPS
2007

NHOPI alone
SIPP
NSCH
2004
2003

BRFSS
2007

22

12

17

Alaska

132

24

43

43

15

Arizona

53

236

60

18

18

Arkansas

22

32

15

California

2,188

4,114

439

151

49

Colorado

112

95

260

129

23

Connecticut

151

263

152

21

Delaware

134

44

37

10

62

16

81

147

292

239

13

63

133

280

1,448

592

Dist. Columbia
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii

470

80

2,093

418

9
397

127

Idaho

24

20

28

Illinois

360

500

99

Indiana

25

160

23

Iowa

90

128

32

Kansas

81

136

57

Kentucky

31

108

Louisiana

17

68

40

Maine

21

19

Maryland

250

657

160

13

15

Massachusetts

190

563

417

31

Michigan

114

368

60

Minnesota

179

244

54

Mississippi

15

28

17

Missouri

50

96

27

Montana

15

16

20

57

40

31

217

116

66

35

22

Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico

74

64

437

1,085

51

97

221

15

51

53

135

15

29

33

668

1,375

North Carolina

77

188

101

21

North Dakota

22

18

Ohio

68

163

53

Oklahoma

17

40

48

10

Oregon

103

260

62

22

11

Pennsylvania

101

280

89

12

Rhode Island

106

56

37

South Carolina

24

152

49

South Dakota

28

16

11

Tennessee

40

116

22

Texas

352

622

233

43

Utah

65

52

44

71

17

Vermont

51

26

Virginia

259

528

96

21

Washington

259

733

479

16

83

West Virginia

14

28

11

Wisconsin

72

204

30

10

Wyoming

19

15

New York

66

U.S. territories
TOTAL

236
9,208

15,400

798

6,657

340
908

N/A

397

1,170

Data Availability for Race, Ethnicity, and Immigrant Groups in Federal Surveys

Appendix A (continued)
Hispanic

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona

CPS
2007

SIPP
2004

Foreign
NSCH
2003

BRFSS
2007

CPS
2007

SIPP
2004

NSCH
2003

80

52

93

108

98

124

143

130

65

225

20

60

1,208

3,384

772

1,073

535

1,768

144

40

Arkansas

186

244

149

177

132

156

42

California

8,543

12,864

1,072

1,282

5,886

9,412

186

Colorado

1,101

1,573

464

1,374

516

1,064

108

Connecticut

651

826

293

552

731

1,020

123

Delaware

297

56

213

85

359

64

75

Dist. Columbia

299

20

282

221

396

104

117
180

Florida

2,414

3,192

545

3,254

2,163

3,588

Georgia

455

744

180

165

563

988

78

Hawaii

304

96

340

478

687

320

111

Idaho

319

216

244

298

154

132

50

Illinois

1,098

1,788

366

303

1,011

1,628

78

Indiana

216

912

135

201

151

724

46

Iowa

254

100

129

133

207

280

52

Kansas

287

693

227

361

199

460

49

Kentucky

76

171

88

83

99

360

47

Louisiana

69

165

110

189

75

188

19

Maine

26

28

39

58

110

96

36

Maryland

444

288

195

269

721

1,444

95

Massachusetts

293

637

251

1,670

505

1,764

92

Michigan

272

432

155

134

299

840

65

Minnesota

307

489

116

53

405

756

53

Mississippi

53

60

70

109

55

84

29

Missouri

122

304

111

69

133

336

34

Montana

68

20

87

93

52

40

32

Nebraska

341

140

178

423

240

144

45

Nevada

955

571

680

515

709

364

137

New Hampshire

141

28

71

92

301

108

61

New Jersey

940

1,440

425

688

1,132

2,772

122

New Mexico

1,061

797

992

2,193

214

300

88

New York

1,844

1,989

388

496

2,134

3,380

103

North Carolina

336

646

196

596

336

836

65

North Dakota

81

64

57

65

40

33

Ohio

246

259

113

150

248

456

41

Oklahoma

180

525

214

331

121

320

62

Oregon

288

896

313

198

294

892

108

Pennsylvania

292

504

138

243

333

832

56

Rhode Island

459

61

370

329

515

160

118

South Carolina

127

400

140

164

137

468

55

South Dakota

107

48

68

87

106

24

25

Tennessee

139

278

101

58

156

416

29

5,211

8,785

929

5,344

2,052

3,778

148

Texas
Utah

459

224

200

322

321

172

52

Vermont

27

46

104

149

16

50

Virginia

402

480

205

217

613

1,388

93

Washington

406

1,266

277

1,188

468

1,768

93

West Virginia

15

45

45

26

36

18

Wisconsin

276

602

144

106

225

564

62

Wyoming

265

72

204

228

89

20

33

27,451

47,014

3,738

U.S. territories
TOTAL

BRFSS
2007

4,279
34,183

49,377

13,357

31,310

N/A