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Social Networks and Access to Health Care Among Mexican-Americans

  • Carole Roan Gresenz
  • Jeannette Rogowski
  • José J. Escarce
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    This research explores social networks and their relationship to access to health care among adult Mexican-Americans. We use data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) linked to data from the 2000 U.S. Census and other data sources. We analyze multiple measures of access to health care. Measures of social networks are constructed at the ZCTA level and include percent of the population that is Hispanic, percent of the population that speaks Spanish, and percent of the population that is foreign-born and Spanish-speaking. Regressions are stratified by insurance status and social network measures are interacted with individual-level measures of acculturation. For insured Mexican-American immigrants, living in an area populated by relatively more Hispanics, more immigrants, or more Spanish-speakers increases access to care. The social network effects are generally stronger for more recent immigrants compared to those who are better established. We find no effects of these characteristics of the local population on access to care for U.S. born Mexican-Americans, suggesting that similarities in race and language may contribute more to the formation of social ties among individuals who are less acculturated to the U.S. Among the uninsured, we find evidence suggesting that social networks defined by ethnicity improve access to care among recent immigrants. A finding particular to the uninsured is the negative influence of percent of the population that is Hispanic and the percent that is Spanish-speaking on access to care among U.S. born Mexican-Americans. The results provide evidence that social networks play an important role in access to health care among Mexican-Americans. The results also suggest the need for further study using additional measures of social networks, analyzing other racial and ethnic groups, and exploring social networks defined by characteristics other than race, language and ethnicity.

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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13460.

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    Date of creation: Oct 2007
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13460
    Note: HC
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    1. Aizer, Anna & Currie, Janet, 2004. "Networks or neighborhoods? Correlations in the use of publicly-funded maternity care in California," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(12), pages 2573-2585, December.
    2. Marianne Bertrand & Erzo F. P. Luttmer & Sendhil Mullainathan, 1999. "Network Effects and Welfare Cultures," Working Papers 9903, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
    3. Manski, Charles F, 1993. "Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: The Reflection Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(3), pages 531-42, July.
    4. Glass, Thomas A. & de Leon, Carlos F. Mendes & Seeman, Teresa E. & Berkman, Lisa F., 1997. "Beyond single indicators of social networks: A LISREL analysis of social ties among the elderly," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 44(10), pages 1503-1517, May.
    5. Borjas, George J, 1995. "Ethnicity, Neighborhoods, and Human-Capital Externalities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 365-90, June.
    6. Walter S. McManus, 1990. "Labor Market Effects of Language Enclaves: Hispanic Men in the United States," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(2), pages 228-252.
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