Undocumented Latin American Immigrants and U.S. Health Services: An Approach to a Political Economy of Utilization


Department of Anthropology, University of California-Irvine, Irvine, CA 92717.


This article contributes to an understanding of the use of health services by undocumented Mexicans and Central Americans who work as manual laborers in the United States. Data collected in San Diego, California, and Dallas, Texas, are analyzed from a political economy perspective. The people in the study had lived in the United States for at least one and a half years and were interviewed in 1986, when laws affecting their future legal status (IRCA) were being debated. The study demonstrates the need for a political economy model more attuned to variations among undocumented populations seeking health care. Coverage by private medical insurance significantly influenced the utilization of health services. The uninsured were much less likely than the insured to have used U.S. health services. There was little evidence that hospital services, including emergency rooms, were overutilized by undocumented interviewees. [migration, health, health insurance, Latin Americans]