A New Method for Estimating Race/Ethnicity and Associated Disparities Where Administrative Records Lack Self-Reported Race/Ethnicity

Published In: HSR, Health Services Research, v. 43, no. 5, pt. 1, Oct. 2008, p. 1722-1736

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2008

by Marc N. Elliott, Allen Fremont, Peter A. Morrison, Philip Pantoja, Nicole Lurie

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OBJECTIVE: To efficiently estimate race/ethnicity using administrative records to facilitate health care organizations' efforts to address disparities when self-reported race/ethnicity data are unavailable. DATA SOURCE: Surname, geocoded residential address, and self-reported race/ethnicity from 1,973,362 enrollees of a national health plan. STUDY DESIGN: The authors compare the accuracy of a Bayesian approach to combining surname and geocoded information to estimate race/ethnicity to two other indirect methods: a non-Bayesian method that combines surname and geocoded information and geocoded information alone. The authors assess accuracy with respect to estimating (1) individual race/ethnicity and (2) overall racial/ethnic prevalence in a population. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: The Bayesian approach was 74 percent more efficient than geocoding alone in estimating individual race/ethnicity and 56 percent more efficient in estimating the prevalence of racial/ethnic groups, outperforming the non-Bayesian hybrid on both measures. The non-Bayesian hybrid was more efficient than geocoding alone in estimating individual race/ethnicity but less efficient with respect to prevalence (p<.05 for all differences). CONCLUSIONS: The Bayesian Surname and Geocoding (BSG) method presented here efficiently integrates administrative data, substantially improving upon what is possible with a single source or from other hybrid methods; it offers a powerful tool that can help health care organizations address disparities until self-reported race/ethnicity data are available.

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