Decade of Success for Latino Children’s Health Now in Jeopardy

In This Report:

Key Findings

  • The gap between health coverage rates for Latino children and all children widened in 2018 for the first time in a decade. Progress in reducing inequities in coverage for Latino children is unraveling. The uninsured rate for Latino children rose to 8.1 percent compared to 5.2 percent for all children and 4.2 percent for non-Latino children in 2018.
  • Both the number and rate of uninsured Latino children in the U.S. increased significantly between 2016 and 2018. The number of uninsured Latino children increased by more than 122,000, bringing the total to almost 1.6 million Latino children without health insurance. Their uninsured rate increased from 7.7 to 8.1 percent.
  • The vast majority of Latino children are citizens (95 percent) but concerns related to immigration status still present a notable barrier to coverage. State policies to cover all children regardless of immigration status are effective in increasing the coverage rates for Latino children overall.
  • Together, Texas and Georgia account for more than 60 percent of the nationwide increase in the number of uninsured Latino children. The rate of uninsured Latino children increased the most sharply in Mississippi and Utah – going up by more than six percentage points in each state.
  • California is the only state with statistically significant decreases in the number and rate of uninsured Latino children between 2016 and 2018. The number of uninsured Latino children in California decreased by almost 11 percent, bringing the uninsured rate down to 3.7 percent, well below the national average for Latino children.


All children deserve a healthy, secure foundation that enables them to lead long and productive lives. Although many factors influence a child’s trajectory, having access to health coverage is essential to a child’s healthy development and is correlated with better educational outcomes, higher paying jobs as an adult, and improved health over a lifetime.1 To this end, a combination of federal and state bipartisan efforts helped bring the rate of uninsured children down to historic lows in 2016.2 However, the most recent data show that the number of uninsured children in the United States (U.S.) increased significantly by more than 400,000 between 2016 and 2018, bringing the total number of uninsured children up to more than 4 million.3 This trend is troubling and suggests that the relentless efforts by the Trump Administration to undermine affordable health coverage programs and target immigrant communities has impacted our nation’s most vulnerable children.

The health and well-being of children across the nation is threatened by the Trump Administration’s policies. However, proportionally, Latino children face even higher risks. Latino children make up 25.3 percent of the U.S. child population but 39.5 percent of the uninsured child population.4 Given the expected Latino population growth, America’s well-being depends on guaranteeing that the nearly 19.7 million Latino children in the U.S. have every opportunity to succeed and reach their full potential.5 This includes access to affordable, comprehensive health coverage.

Notably, in the years following implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its emphasis on getting families covered, the uninsured rate for Latino children improved at a much faster rate than the rate of improvement for all children.6 During that time period, certain policies paved the way for remarkable progress in reducing both the overall Latino child uninsured rate and the troubling inequities that exist between Latino children and other children.

Unfortunately, there is increasing evidence that these positive trends are reversing and will continue to worsen absent change. Policy choices that coincided with this period of coverage losses suggest that an environment that prioritizes restricting access and fostering confusion and fear can quickly undo past gains. The lesson is clear. Policymakers would be wise to recognize the importance of Latinos, and Latino children specifically, to the health and well-being of the nation overall and act to reverse the losses in coverage.

Full Report

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Executive Summary

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  1. K. Wagnerman, A. Chester, and J. Alker, “Medicaid is a Smart Investment in Children,” (Washington DC: Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, March 2017), available at content/uploads/2017/03/MedicaidSmartInvestment.pdf.
  2. J. Alker and O. Pham, “Nationwide Rate of Uninsured Children Reaches Historic Low,” (Washington DC: Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, October 2017), available at https://ccf.georgetown. edu/2017/10/22/nationwide-rate-of-uninsured-children- reaches-historic-low/.
  3. J. Alker and L. Roygardner, “The Number of Uninsured Children is on the Rise” (Washington DC: Georgetown Uni- versity Center for Children and Families, October 2019), available at number-of-uninsured-children-in-on-the-rise-acs/.
  4. Unless otherwise noted, all data in this report is based on a Georgetown University Center for Children and Families analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey using the Integrated Public Use Microdata for the time period 2016 to 2018. Please see the methodology for more information.
  5. ChildStats, Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. POP3 Race and Hispanic Origin Composition: Percentage of U.S. Children Ages 0–17 by Race and Hispanic Origin, 1980–2018 and Projected 2019– 2050, available at tables/pop3.asp (accessed January 2020).
  6. S. Schwartz, A. Chester, S. Lopez and S. Vargas Poppe, “Historic Gains in Health Coverage for Hispanic Children in the Affordable Care Act’s First Year,” (Washington DC: Georgetown University Center for Children and Families and National Council of La Raza, January 2016), available at uploads/2016/01/CCF-NCLR-Uninsured-Hispanic-Kids- Report-Final-Jan-14-2016.pdf.