Race and Gender Concordance: Strategy to Reduce Healthcare Disparities or Red Herring? Evidence from a Qualitative Studyedit
Healthcare treatment differences persist for African Americans even after controlling for socioeconomic status (van Ryn and Burke 2000). Although blacks represent a sizable percentage of the middle class, most disparities research does not address class heterogeneity. Furthermore, research indicates patient–provider race concordance may mitigate racial disparities in health care (Laveist and Neru-jeter in J Health Soc Behav 43(3):296–306, 2002; IOM in Unequal treatment: confronting racial and ethnic disparities in health care. National Academies Press, Washington, 2002). This study explores race and gender preference for black middle-class women in healthcare settings. The study uses in-depth interviews and focus groups to explore the experiences of thirty African American women between 38 and 67 in a large urban area. The majority of respondents expressed a strong preference for a female OB/GYN (of any race) while 9 preferred a female primary care provider (of any race). Although the women did not express an explicit race preference, they had a strong affinity for black female providers. Importantly, respondents complicated the idea of provider-level race preference by noting that other site-level factors like wait times and the site’s racial composition affected their racial preferences. Although increasing racial diversity among providers is generally positive, respondents suggest that alone will not ameliorate racial disparities. The complexities of the healthcare encounter, including time pressure, clinical uncertainty, and the patient’s desire for expertise regardless of race or gender, all impinge on respondents’ race preferences. Lastly, women noted that site-level factors may be conflated with the race of provider such that having a black provider does not necessarily lead to better care or protect women from discrimination or bias.