Racial Concordance and the Quality of Medical Care: Evidence from the Military

74 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2022 Last revised: 12 Jun 2023

See all articles by Michael Frakes

Michael Frakes

Duke University School of Law

Jonathan Gruber

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics

Date Written: December 2022

Abstract

One explanation for insufficient use of primary care in the U.S. is a lack of trust between patients and providers – particularly along racial lines. We assess the role of racial concordance between patients and medical providers in driving use of preventive care and the implications for patient outcomes. We use unique data from the Military Health System, where we observe providers as patients so that we can identify their race, and where moves across bases change exposure to provider race. We consider patients with four chronic, deadly, but ultimately manageable illnesses, where the relationship with the provider may have the most direct and important impact on health. We find striking evidence that racial concordance leads to improved maintenance of preventive care – and ultimately lower patient mortality. Pooling across these diseases, we estimate that a one-standard deviation increase in the share of providers who are Black leads to a 15% relative decline in Black mortality among those with these manageable illnesses. Our results further suggest that between 55 and 69% of this mortality impact arises through improved medication use and adherence, with other aspects of the provider-patient relationship accounting for the residual.

Suggested Citation

Frakes, Michael and Gruber, Jonathan, Racial Concordance and the Quality of Medical Care: Evidence from the Military (December 2022). NBER Working Paper No. w30767, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4306722

Michael Frakes (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

Jonathan Gruber

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

50 Memorial Drive
E52-391
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

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