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Do quality perceptions of health and social services vary for different ethnic groups? An empirical investigation



The United States is now more ethnically diverse than any other time in its history. In 2000, minority ethnic groups comprised 26% of the US population; by 2010, they comprise 35%, and in 2080 they will form the majority of American citizens. And among these ethnic groups, African Americans (12.4%), Hispanics (15.4%) and Asians (4.4%) were the most predominant in 2000.

The growth of this segment of the population is not only in terms of numbers but also in terms of economic development. Minority groups are showing marked improvement in income and education levels leading to greater purchasing power. As a result, for-profit companies are increasingly targeting minority populations with products and promotions specifically designed for specific minority groups. Even non profit organizations such as educational programs, social service and healthcare agencies are striving to design specific services and culturally competent outreach models in order to serve this increasingly diverse marketplace. But despite the strides made by non profit agencies, several studies note the tremendous disparities between the ethnic and racial groups in the seeking and the receipt of health-care and social services. Additionally, there is limited empirical information about the perceptions of minority consumers. In order to effectively serve minority groups, it is essential to understand their experiences with the non profit service industry and to assess their ongoing concerns.

In this study, we focus on two critical components of the non profit world – healthcare and social services. We conducted a survey to compare and contrast the social service and health-care quality perceptions of three ethnic groups: Caucasians, African-Americans and Hispanics. Our study, undertaken in collaboration with community health centers, reveals distinct differences in perceptions between the three ethnic groups. Based on our findings, we outline a set of implementable strategies for social service and community health organizations. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.