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VOLUME 43 | NUMBER 5 | OCTOBER 2008


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

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. We 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. We 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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