Marriage and Health Care Coverage Among Families with Children. Summary

08/01/2008

The relationship between marital status and family health care coverage is complex. Similar overall coverage rates among married-parent and single-parent families mask important differences in source of coverage and the proportion of family members covered. The relationship between marital status and health care coverage also differs by income level and racial/ethnic group. Key findings from this analysis include the following:

  • Overall rates of health insurance coverage are similar for married-parent and single-parent families.
  • Rates of employment-based health care cover-age are higher for married-parent families, whereas rates of public health care coverage are higher for single-parent families.
  • Among low-income families with children, the percentage of families in which every family member has coverage is higher for single-parent families than for married-parent families.
  • The relationship between marital status and family health care coverage differs by racial/ethnic group. Among Hispanics, coverage rates are higher for single-parent families than for those with married parents. Among whites, however, married-parent families have higher coverage rates.
  • The percentage of families with health care coverage for some but not all family members is higher for Hispanics than for members of other racial/ethnic groups, regardless of marital status.
  • Racial/ethnic differences in the relationship between marital status and health care coverage primarily reflect low rates of employment-based coverage among Hispanic families.

The findings presented in this brief are based on data from a single time point and do not adjust for differences in income levels, employment rates, job characteristics, education levels, and other demographic characteristics between single-parent and married-parent families. Therefore, any association between marital status and health care coverage identified in this analysis should not be interpreted as implying a causal link. Additional research based on longitudinal data is needed to determine the causal effect of marital status on family health care coverage apart from the other factors that distinguish married-parent and single-parent families.

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