How much time do Americans spend seeking health care? Racial and ethnic differences in patient experiences

Deborah Carr, Yoko Ibuka, Louise B. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


We use data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) to investigate racial differences in the amount of time individuals spend traveling to, waiting for, and receiving outpatient healthcare services on a randomly selected survey interview day. Of the 60,674 participants in the 2003-2006 waves of the ATUS, 2.67% (n=1,621) reported a clinical encounter on their designated day; this proportion did not differ significantly by race. Among those reporting a clinical encounter, blacks reported spending 30 more minutes than whites in receiving services, and this race gap persisted net of socioeconomic, health, and geographic factors. Hispanics also reported significantly longer visits than whites; yet, this difference was partially accounted for by Hispanics' relatively poorer health status. Hispanics and persons of other ethnicity reported significantly longer wait times than whites, whereas blacks and Hispanics reported significantly longer travel times than did whites; these significant differences did not attenuate in the fully adjusted models. The results show that ethnic minorities spend far more time than whites when traveling to, waiting for, or receiving outpatient services, revealing another aspect of health care where stark racial inequities exist. We suggest that the relatively long wait and transportation times reported by ethnic minorities may reflect overcrowded care sites and the lack of quality care in neighborhoods inhabited largely by blacks and Hispanics, thus impeding the delivery of timely and "patient-centered" medical care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-98
Number of pages28
JournalResearch in the Sociology of Health Care
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)


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