The Role of Acculturation and Social Capital in Access to Health Care: A Meta-study on Hispanics in the US


A meta-study of 83 articles published from 1981 to 2016 was conducted on Hispanics access to health care in the US. Few of these studies have included acculturation and even fewer the role of social capital as important factors that impact healthcare access for this population. Among those that do include these two factors, there is confusion as to how they are defined and operationalized. Acculturation and social capital could serve to overcome some of the structural barriers in place that manifest stronger among Hispanics who are relatively newcomers to a healthcare system that is highly complex to navigate. The majority of studies included in this systematic review of the literature are in public health journals, which do not focus on sociological aspects as much. This study exposes the need to expand the worldviews used in the literature in order to enrich our understanding of access to health care for Hispanics.

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  1. 1.

    In this paper we use the term Hispanic and Latinx interchangeably to refer to the population in the US that self-classify themselves as immigrants or descendants of immigrants from Latin American countries, mostly those that have been colonized by Spain. We recognize these terms are context based (i.e. they vary in their definition in other parts of the world).

  2. 2.

    The centers include: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, The Commonwealth Foundation, Health Research and Educational Trust, and The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

  3. 3.

    In the introduction we presented the following numbers to illustrate the differences. Hispanics consistently show the highest rates of uninsured (29%) when compared to non-Hispanic-white (11%), blacks (19%), or Asian (15%) [8], [9].

  4. 4.

    Examples may help in understanding the impact of such. Puerto Ricans for instance, are American citizens, so they qualify for public health insurance. Mexican immigrants are usually a target of discrimination through immigration and healthcare legislation. Hence, Mexican immigrants, if undocumented do not have access to public health insurance as Puerto Ricans do [68]. During the Cold War, Cubans who migrated to the US were given a refugee status and several preferential treatments, including gaining quick citizenship status. In addition, most of the Cubans who migrated to the US were of higher socioeconomic status with higher educational levels. As a result, Cubans gained access to things that Mexican immigrants of low socioeconomic status and lower educational levels do not have, such as access to medical insurance [69].


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See Table 6.

Table 6 List of articles included in the meta-study

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Rodriguez-Alcalá, M.E., Qin, H. & Jeanetta, S. The Role of Acculturation and Social Capital in Access to Health Care: A Meta-study on Hispanics in the US. J Community Health 44, 1224–1252 (2019).

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  • Hispanics
  • Latinos
  • Access to health care
  • Acculturation
  • Social capital